Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day

Building upon the success of previous years, the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation (TNBC), continues to spearhead an awareness day that draws attention to a type of breast cancer that happens in 10-20 percent of diagnosed breast cancers.

On Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day, members of the TNBC community often host community-based awareness activities and fundraising activities that are supported by the TNBC Foundation.

All funds raised by community hosts through these events are donated to TNBC research. The day, which is now a global movement has attracted the support of other breast cancer organizations, corporations and individuals world-wide.

Defining Triple Negative Breast Cancer

The TNBC Foundation defines triple negative breast cancer as a cancer that does not have any one of the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth–estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene. This means that the breast cancer cells have tested negative for hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2), estrogen receptors (ER), and progesterone receptors (PR). Without these necessary receptors, common hormone therapy and drugs that target estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 are ineffective. Using chemotherapy to treat triple negative breast cancer is a very effective option.

Triple negative breast cancer can be more aggressive.

It tends to affect younger women. While it affects all races, it is more common in African Americans than in white women.

The Story Behind the Foundation

In an interview with Hayley Dinerman, the Executive Director of The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, she shared the history of this unique Foundation, which is one of a kind, focusing specifically on the needs of those affected by TNBC.

She shared the challenges that a diagnosis of triple negative presents to the treatment community as well as for those affected by this type of breast cancer.

"The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation was founded in 2006 in memory of Nancy Block-Zena who was diagnosed at age 35 with triple-negative breast cancer, and died 2 1/2 years later. In response to Nancy's diagnosis, her close friends launched TNBC.”

Ms. Dinerman described the Foundation’s mission as being:

  • A credible source of information about triple negative breast cancer
  • A catalyst for science and patient advocacy groups
  • A caring community with meaningful services for patients and their families.

“The TNBC Foundation is dedicated to raising research funding to find a targeted therapy for treating triple negative breast cancer. At present, there is none. Towards this end, the foundation has raised millions for research,” Ms. Dinerman added.

Emotional Impact and Support

When we discussed the emotional impact of having a triple negative breast cancer, Ms. Dinerman shared that women often state they feel isolated since they rarely meet others with a triple negative diagnosis. If they join a breast cancer support group, often they find that treatments others in the group are talking about don’t apply to them, and they cannot relate.

Another concern of those with triple negative breast cancer is the fear or recurrence. Since hormone therapy, given after active treatment to reduce the incidence of recurrence, is not effective for those with triple negative, many women feel they are living in a state of uncertainty.

The TNBC Foundation partners with other organizations to provide patient support services. Through its Helpline relationship with CancerCare, those coping with triple negative breast cancer can speak with oncology social workers knowledgeable about triple negative breast cancer.

The Foundation’s website is a comprehensive resource offering:

  • Fact sheets
  • Information forums
  • A Triple-Negative Breast Cancer guide, created in partnership with Living Beyond Breast Cancer is free and available for download. This guide is for anyone who has or knows someone with triple negative breast cancer. It covers the basics of a triple negative diagnosis, treatment options and what to expect after therapy ends.

The Foundation funds a patient navigator, trained to help women diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, at Jacobi Hospital, Bronx NY. Jacobi is a massive medical complex, part of the NYC Health and Hospital System, serving diverse communities where many different languages are spoken. The TNBC Navigator is critical to insuring that women are helped to understand their disease and the importance of keeping treatment appointments.The navigator assists women to navigate a complex system of care.

Having worked as a navigator in this hospital, I can speak to the additional need for a navigator when some women need help in overcoming ethnic and cultural barriers to cooperate with life-saving treatments.

At Jacobi, the navigator assists patients diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in navigating treatment from diagnosis to life as a survivor. She is a liaison with medical staff and the tumor board. The patient navigator also links women with community-based organizations that can provide help and support during treatment, and after active treatment is completed.

The navigator is also active in the Bronx community. She shares information about triple negative breast cancer by meeting and speaking to women in church groups, community centers, and other places where women gather to socialize.

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