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Triple Negative Breast Cancer is Rare, but Fast-Moving

By: Judy Fortin, CBS News
By: Judy Fortin, CBS News

June 17, 2008

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 180,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. this year. About 15% of those patients will have a rare, fast-moving form of the disease, called Triple Negative.

Three weeks out of every month, Cheryl Reed receives chemotherapy for her second bout of an aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of breast cancer called "Triple Negative."

"I was re-diagnosed with the cancer having spread to my liver, lungs and my chest wall," said Reed.

Women with Triple Negative breast cancer lack three hormone receptors known to fuel most breast cancer tumors, which means many of the most common drugs don't work.

Oncologist Dr. Fumni Olapade says the reason why Triple Negative Breast Cancer is worrisome is because we don't know the risk factors for it, we don't know how best to screen for it and we don't know how best to treat it.

Dr. Funmi Olopade was at the forefront of identifying Triple Negative breast cancer and determined the disease is most common among young, African-American and Hispanic women -- especially those born with a certain rare gene mutation.

We know that women with a family history of breast cancer who have a BRCA-1 mutation are most at risk, but researchers admit they still don't know a lot about this disease, which makes early detection so important. Cheryl was diagnosed early and is responding well to treatment.

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