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Young women more vulnerable to triple-negative breast cancer


TRIPLE-NEGATIVE breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive type of breast cancer, tends to be more common in women under the age of 40.  

This cancer type tests negative for three of the most common types of receptors found in breast cancer: estrogen receptors; progesterone receptors; and HER2 protein, a type of protein responsible for cancer-signaling pathways, said Dr. Josephine Contreras-Tolentino, a medical oncologist from the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology. 

Most vulnerable to TNBC, which has a faster growth rate and a higher risk of metastasis and recurrence, are women who are young and those breast cancer gene mutations, she added at a June 28 discussion organized by Hope From Within, an MSD Philippines–led cancer advocacy campaign. 

 A breast lump is the most common sign.  

Treatment options include chemotherapy (which can shrink tumors or make them less aggressive), lumpectomy (which is a type of surgery that removes breast lumps), and immunotherapy (which helps the immune system better combat cancer).  

Because cancer is complex, outcomes are improved when management is handled by healthcare professionals with different specializations.  

“I take the multidisciplinary approach,” Dr. Tolentino said.   

“In oncology, there is no one doctor who can know everything,” she added. “With the many advancements now, we need a team to create the best treatment plan for the patient.”  

A multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach is said to be “the gold standard” for diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Based on a 2020 study, MDT care was associated with a substantially lower relative risk of recurrence and death in patients with breast cancer.  

Jaymee T. Joaquin, a 43-year-old breast cancer survivor who has been living with the disease since 2017, highlighted the importance of communicating with one’s medical team.  

“You will have a long relationship with your medical team,” she said. “You have to trust them. It’s important to feel at ease with them.”  

While the management of cancer is financially draining, the National Integrated Cancer Control Act or Republic Act No. 11215 was meant to address the inequities in the provision of healthcare access for cancer patients. 

“If we can implement — to the letter — the intent of the law, then many families could benefit from it, and we could greatly contribute to the successful implementation of universal health care,” said Dr. Clarito U. Cairo, Jr., program manager for cancer of the Department of Health.  

The Cancer Control Assistance Program, which aims to be launched by the third quarter of this year, will provide assistance in terms of out-of-pocket expenses such as screening and diagnostics that are not covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.  — Patricia B. Mirasol