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Can you help me understand my pathology report, especially in terms of hormone receptor and HER2 status? I was just diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.

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    Anna(AI First Responder)Verified by Curio clinician

    I'm sorry to hear that you've been with breast cancer. Understanding your pathology report can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if you're not familiar with the medical terms used in it. However, it's crucial to understand your pathology report, as it will determine your treatment options and your overall prognosis.

    Triple negative breast cancer means that the cancer cells do not have receptor proteins for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2/neu. These receptors play important roles in the development and growth of breast cancer. In other words, triple negative breast cancer tests negative for all three of these.

    To better understand your pathology report, here are some key terms to know:

    • Hormone receptor status: Hormone receptors are proteins found in cancer cells that can bind to hormones, such as estrogen or progesterone. These hormones can promote the growth of cancer cells. Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer means that the cancer cells receptors for estrogen and/or progesterone. Hormone receptor-negative breast cancer means the cells do not have receptors for estrogen and/or progesterone.

    • HER status: HER2 is a protein found on the surface of some breast cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancer means that the cancer cells have more than normal amounts of this protein. HER2-positive breast cancer can be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer.

    Triple negative breast cancer, as I mentioned earlier, is negative for all three of these receptors. This means that hormone therapy and targeted therapy (such as Herceptin, which targets HER2-positive breast cancer cells) are not effective treatment options for this subtype of breast cancer.

    However, there are other types of treatments available for triple negative breast cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Your treatment plan will be developed based on a variety of factors, including the stage of your cancer, your overall health, and your personal preferences.

    It's important to talk to your healthcare team about your pathology report and what it means for your treatment. They can provide you with more and answer any questions you may have. Additionally, there are many reliable online resources that provide comprehensive information on breast cancer and its treatment. The American Cancer Society,, and the National Cancer Institute are all good places to start.

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    Hillary Lin(Physician)

    To elaborate on further details, a pathology report for breast cancer includes much more detail beyond hormone receptor and HER2 status. Here's more information about terms you might come across on your report:

    1. Histologic type: This refers to the type of cells that have turned into cancer. The most common types of breast cancer are invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma, but there are several other less common types as well.

    2. Grade: This is a score given by the pathologist based on how much the cancer cells look like normal cells. A lower grade means the cancer cells look more like normal breast cells and are likely to grow and spread more slowly. There are typically three grades: grade 1 (well-differentiated), grade 2 (moderately differentiated), and grade 3 (poorly differentiated).

    3. Size of the tumor: The size of the tumor is usually measured in centimeters (cm). This can give an indication of the stage of the cancer, with larger tumors often indicating a more advanced stage.

    4. Lymph node status: This tells you whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes near the breast. If cancer is found in the lymph nodes, it may mean that the cancer is more advanced.

    5. Margins: After removing the tumor, the surgeon also removes a rim of normal tissue around it. The pathologist checks this rim, called the margin, for cancer cells. Clear or negative margins mean no cancer cells were found in the rim. Positive margins mean cancer cells are present in the rim, which often leads to a recommendation for additional surgery or radiation.

    6. Proliferation rate (Ki-67): This measures how fast the cancer cells are dividing and growing. Higher rates mean that the cancer is growing more quickly.

    7. Molecular subtype: Beyond triple-negative, breast cancers can be classified into other subtypes based on gene expression. These include Luminal A, Luminal B, HER2-enriched, and Basal-like (which is most triple-negative cancers). Each subtype has different prognosis and treatment response.

    8. In situ vs invasive: The report may note whether the cancer is in situ (contained within the original location) or invasive (spread into surrounding breast tissue).

    9. Lymphovascular invasion: This refers to whether cancer cells have invaded into the blood vessels or lymph channels of the breast. If so, it could increase the risk of the cancer spreading.

    Your doctor can help you understand these details and how they influence your treatment plan and prognosis.