- Question from KoKo: My mom was recently diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. She is Stage I with no lymph node involvement. She underwent six chemo treatments and the 5-day MammoSite radiation. Everyone seems to feel that her prognosis is so grim due to the triple-negative. What can she do now to protect herself?
- Answers - George Sledge, M.D. A good place to start is what's a common misconception in that triple-negative breast cancer has a truly awful prognosis. But in fact, that's not really the truth. Factors such as size of tumor and lymph node status are still very important. For a Stage I breast cancer patient, even with a triple-negative breast cancer, most patients live to a ripe old age. In addition, if the patient received adjuvant chemotherapy, there are significant reductions in the risk of recurrence and death due to breast cancer. So I would not consider this a matter of gloom and doom. Beyond this, there is an emerging area of what we can do after chemotherapy for women with triple-negative breast cancer. There are some fascinating recent data from a trial that was conducted by Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of University of California, San Francisco, that looked to see whether or not modifying one's dietary fat intake would have any effect on outcome for early stage breast cancer patients. While dietary fat reduction had relatively little effect in women who had estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers, in women with estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancers, there was a significant reduction in the risk of recurrence for women with a low dietary fat intake. There's also increasing evidence, most prominently from the Women's Health Study in Boston, that women who exercise regularly (3 hours a week or more) have a lower risk of recurrence of their breast cancer than women who do not exercise regularly. So these studies point to the possibility that lifestyle interventions may be important for the breast cancer survivor.
- Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. As far as exercise and diet are concerned, studies are very positive in the overall effect that diet and exercise have in women during and after chemotherapy as well as long term in decreasing fatigue and side effects of chemotherapeutic agents and radiation therapy. So even in women who are not estrogen-receptor negative, progesterone-receptor negative, and HER2 negative, the effects of exercise can be incredibly powerful and is something I recommend for patients regardless of whether they've never exercised in their life, that they add cardiovascular exercise to their daily living.
- George Sledge, M.D. That is a great point!
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Triple-Negative Breast Cancer featured George Sledge, M.D. and Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about triple-negative breast cancer and its treatment.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in July 2008.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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