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A: The vast majority (about 80%) of breast cancer is influenced by the hormones estrogen, progesterone or the protein HER2 (or a combination of the three). Because these hormones aid the growth of breast cancer cells specific drug therapies have been developed to target them. Women with a positive “hormone receptor status” can take these drugs to keep the cancer from recurring. Triple negative cancers are not influenced by these hormones and therefore these treatment options are not effective against these tumors. The prognosis for triple negative breast cancers are worse in general than for traditional hormone positive breast cancers.
A: Metaplastic Breast Cancer is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Often it is triple negative. There are a number of sub-types including spindle cell, squamous cell and matrix producing. The hallmark of MpBC tumors is the mixture of cell types not found in more common forms of breast cancer. Metaplastic tumors will include both epithelial (glandular) cells and mesenchymal (bone, skin and muscular) cells. Normal breast cancer will be made up only of the glandular (epithelial) cells. For more information on the characteristics of MpBC visit the MpBC Resources page.
A: There are many things that make Meatplastic Breast Cancer different than other more common forms of breast cancer. MpBC is usually graded higher and presents larger at diagnosis. It is more aggressive. It is very often triple negative (but not always). Nodal metastasis is seen less often in metaplastic breast cancer but distance metastasis occurs more often. Recurrence happens at a greater rate and in a shorter time frame than traditional breast cancer.
A: The prognosis for MpBC is not as good considering stage and grade but it is also not a death sentence. There are very few studies of metaplastic breast cancer and so any solid prognostic evidence is debatable. Some studies put overall survival at 50% and some as high as 75% depending on the subtype of MpBC and the initial stage of the tumor. This Johns Hopkins study puts five year overall survival rates at 65% compared to Invasive Ductal Carcinoma at 89%. More studies need to be done to accurately determine prognosis.
A: Metastatic breast cancer is a breast cancer that has traveled to distant parts of the body. (bones, lungs and brain) It is often referred to as stage 4 cancer. It is considered terminal. Metaplastic breast cancer is only a TYPE of breast cancer. On this site we refer to metaplastic breast cancer as MpBC.
A: You can be treated for MpBC at any hospital, but very few are versed in the specific treatment of metaplastic breast cancer. You are more likely to find a doctor that has treated MpBC before at larger urban and University hospitals. There is one current trial for metaplastic breast cancer at MD Anderson in Houston.