Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Follow-Up Care

After you complete treatment for triple negative breast cancer, your medical team will provide you with a follow-up care plan. This is an important step in your cancer care to manage any remaining side effects from treatment and to watch for any signs that may indicate recurrence or metastasis. Develop a personalized plan by talking to your medical team about your follow-up schedule, which physicians you will continue to see and what screenings are necessary.

Your screening schedule will depend on several factors, including your specific diagnosis, the treatments you received, your age and overall health. Generally, the following screening tests are recommended after breast cancer treatment.

  • Physical exams every three to six months for the first three years after the first treatment, every six to 12 months for the next two years, and then once each year thereafter.
  • A mammogram one year after the first mammogram that led to your diagnosis. If you received radiation therapy, it is advised to wait six months after your last treatment. A mammogram is then recommended at least once per year. Additionally, perform monthly breast self-examinations.
  • Genetic counseling, if you have not considered it already, see Genetic Testing below.

In addition to following screening guidelines, survivors with triple negative breast cancer are encouraged to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and exercising.

Recurrent Disease

One of the biggest fears you may have is the possibility the cancer will recur (come back). Recurrence is when the breast cancer comes back in the same or opposite breast or chest wall. If the cancer comes back outside of the breast, it is called metastatic recurrence. Both are considered advanced disease. Although a diagnosis of either can be overwhelming, it is important to know that treatment options for recurrence are available to you.

If your cancer recurs, be sure to talk to your medical team about re-evaluating the tumor for hormone-receptor and HER2 status because it may be different than it was for your original diagnosis.

Managing Your Fear

Your fear of recurrence may be even greater once you know that long-term treatment is not an option for you. Additionally, once your treatment ends, you may feel as if you are not doing all you can to protect yourself against recurrence. Certain events, such as holidays, family gatherings and medical appointments, may make you emotional and cause you to worry more.

All of those feelings and fears are valid, but they don’t have to control your life. You can help manage your fear of recurrence by being proactive. Planning will help you feel more confident in facing your fears.

  • Listen to your body. Not every symptom means a recurrence, but you can only be sure if you communicate openly with your medical team.
  • Create a follow-up plan, also called a survivorship plan, which addresses long-term side effects, support resources, nutrition, finances and more.
  • Embrace life by engaging in activities you enjoy.

Don’t let your fears overwhelm you. This is not a struggle you should face alone. Seek the advice of a professional. See the resources in this guide, and reach out to your medical team.

 

Genetic Testing

Triple negative breast cancer is often associated with BRCA mutations (abnormalities), the genes that are linked to inherited risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Knowing whether you have a mutation in one of these genes is valuable for two very important reasons.

1. Choosing the best treatment possible

If you have a BRCA mutation, some treatments may be more effective for you. Your medical team will work closely with you to determine the best treatment plan for your triple negative breast cancer. Additionally, a BRCA mutation puts you at a higher risk for cancer in the other breast and in the ovaries. Experts recommend testing for BRCA mutations for people with triple negative breast cancer who are younger than 60. If you do have one, you can learn about ways to lower your risk for those cancers. Research is being done to find better ways to detect, treat and prevent cancer in people with BRCA mutations.

2. Assessing your family’s risk

If you have a BRCA mutation, your family members may also carry the mutation. A genetic counselor can discuss the risks and benefits of genetic testing to help you and your family decide if it is appropriate for your family members. A genetic counselor can also explain the results of genetic testing, which can sometimes be complicated.
 
Most experts recommend against testing children under 18 for BRCA mutations because no safe, effective therapies to prevent breast cancer in children currently exist. In addition, children are not old enough to decide whether they want to know about their cancer risk.
 
Ask your doctor about genetic testing, and visit the following websites to learn more:

Additional Resources

 

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