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What Does Her2 Positive Breast Cancer Mean

Her2 Is A Protein That Accelerates Cell Growth

CLEOPATRA: Treating HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

First, what do those letters mean? HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which is a gene that makes HER2 proteins, according to the National Institutes of Health. HER2 proteins are normally found on the surface of healthy breast cells to promote breast cell growth and repair, but when HER2 mutates, things go wrong. An excess of HER2 proteins causes cells to grow fast. When cancer cells have more HER2, this causes cancer cells to grow more rapidly, explains Swati Kulkarni, M.D., a breast surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

How Her2 Affects Breast Cancer Stage

There are a number of things that affect the stage of your breast cancer. Whether you are HER2-positive or HER2-negative is one. Others are:

  • Size of tumor and if it’s grown into tissue around it
  • Whether there’s cancer in your lymph nodes
  • Whether cancer has spread beyond the breast
  • The tumor’s grade
  • Whether cancer cells have receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone

It can be hard to figure out your stage because of the number of factors your doctor must consider. Every case is different, but there are general guidelines for each stage, and your HER2 status can make quite a bit of difference. For example, you might have breast cancer with:

  • Tumor that is 2 to 5 centimeters
  • No cancer cells detected in lymph nodes

If you’re HER2-positive you’re likely at stage IIA. If you’re negative, you’re probably still stage I.

Stage IIB could mean:

  • Tumor that is 2 to 5 centimeters
  • Cancer cells or clumps up to 2 millimeters in one or more lymph nodes

But even with these signs, you could still be at stage I if you’re HER2-positive

A stage III fast growing tumor that’s bigger than 5 centimeters might still be at stage IIA if you’re positive for:

  • HER2

What Is A Breast Papilloma And Is It Cancer

Also called intraductal papilloma, a breast papilloma is a small, wartlike growth in the breasts milk ducts. This benign condition may cause a clear or bloody discharge from the nipple, or you may feel a small lump behind or next to the nipple. Having one papilloma does not raise your breast cancer risk, though having several of these growths has been linked to higher risk.

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What Happens During A Her2 Breast Cancer Test

Most HER2 testing involves taking a sample of tumor tissue in a procedure called a biopsy. There are three main types of biopsy procedures:

  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy, which uses a very thin needle to remove a sample of breast cells or fluid
  • Core needle biopsy, which uses a larger needle to remove a sample
  • Surgical biopsy, which removes a sample in a minor, outpatient procedure

Fine needle aspiration and core needle biopsies usually include the following steps:

  • You will lay on your side or sit on an exam table.
  • A health care provider will clean the biopsy site and inject it with an anesthetic so you won’t feel any pain during the procedure.
  • Once the area is numb, the provider will insert either a fine aspiration needle or core biopsy needle into the biopsy site and remove a sample of tissue or fluid.
  • You may feel a little pressure when the sample is withdrawn.
  • Pressure will be applied to the biopsy site until the bleeding stops.
  • Your provider will apply a sterile bandage at the biopsy site.

In a surgical biopsy, a surgeon will make a small cut in your skin to remove all or part of a breast lump. A surgical biopsy is sometimes done if the lump can’t be reached with a needle biopsy. Surgical biopsies usually include the following steps.

  • Once the biopsy area is numb or you are unconscious, the surgeon will make a small cut into the breast and remove part or all of a lump. Some tissue around the lump may also be removed.
  • Breast Cancer Research At Moffitt Cancer Center


    Moffitt Cancer Center has been designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, an achievement that speaks directly to our commitment to advancing research and treatment for this malignancy. We are researching the causes of HER2 positive breast cancer every day, and we wont be satisfied until there is a cure. To advance the treatment of this malignancy, Moffitt spearheads a robust clinical trials program where eligible patients can receive the latest breakthroughs in treatment before they are available elsewhere.

    If you would like to learn more about the causes of HER2 positive breast cancer, or if you have been diagnosed with this malignancy and would like to explore the treatment options available to you at Moffitt, we encourage you to request an appointment. To do so, call or submit a new patient registration form. We accept patients with or without referrals.

    • BROWSE

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    What Are Lobular Carcinoma In Situ And Atypical Lobular Hyperplasia

    Lobular carcinoma in situ is not considered breast cancer or a precancer because it doesnt turn into invasive cancer if untreated. LCIS and atypical lobular hyperplasia , a similar noncancerous condition, are subtypes of lobular neoplasia, a disorder marked by abnormal cells in the breasts lobules . Since LCIS and ALH raise your risk for breast cancer in the future, if youve been diagnosed with either of them, talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened for breast cancer and whether you should have any additional screening tests.

    What Does Her2 Positive Mean

    HER2 is a protein that helps cancer cells to grow. HER2-positive cancers make too much HER2, so the cancer may grow more quickly. There are treatments that can target HER2, which are often good at keeping the cancer under control.

    Is it common for cancers to be HER2 positive?

    About 1 in 5 women has HER2-positive breast cancer.

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    What Do The Hormone Receptor Test Results Mean

    Test results will give you your hormone receptor status. It will say a tumor ishormone receptor-positive if at least 1% of the cells tested have estrogen and/or progesterone receptors. Otherwise, the test will say the tumor is hormone receptor-negative.

    Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer cells have either estrogen or progesterone receptors or both. These breast cancers can be treated with hormone therapy drugs that lower estrogen levels or block estrogen receptors. Hormone receptor-positive cancers tend to grow more slowly than those that are hormone receptor-negative. Women with hormone receptor-positive cancers tend to have a better outlook in the short-term, but these cancers can sometimes come back many years after treatment.

    Hormone receptor-negative breast cancers have no estrogen or progesterone receptors. Treatment with hormone therapy drugs is not helpful for these cancers. These cancers tend to grow faster than hormone receptor-positive cancers. If they come back after treatment, its often in the first few years. Hormone receptor-negative cancers are more common in women who have not yet gone through menopause.

    Triple-positive cancers are ER-positive, PR-positive, and HER2-positive. These cancers can be treated with hormone drugs as well as drugs that target HER2.

    What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer

    MedStar Health Explains HER2 Positive Breast Cancer

    As its name suggests, inflammatory breast cancer often causes the breast to become red, swollen, and inflamed. Some women with IBC also notice thickened or discolored breast skin with tiny dimples, puckers, or ridges that make it look like an orange peel. While the symptoms may sound like an infection, the real culprit is cancer that is blocking lymphatic vessels in the skin and breast tissue, causing a buildup of fluid and, in some cases, pain, discoloration, and sudden swelling of the breast. Also called inflammatory breast carcinoma or locally advanced breast cancer, IBC can spread quickly, making prompt diagnosis and treatment essential.

    Read Also: Low Grade Breast Cancer Prognosis

    When Breast Cancer Is Both Her2

    It is possible to have breast cancer that is both HER2-positive and . Cancer that grows because of the hormones and , and HER2, is sometimes known as triple-positive breast cancer.

    If you have triple-positive breast cancer, your treatment will likely include medicines that target the HER2 receptors and medicines that target the receptors.

    There Are Known Risk Factors For Her2

    Again, while exact cause is difficult to pinpoint, researchers have identified some risk factors for HER2-positive disease, according to Moffit Cancer Center. For example, being a higher weight, not living an active lifestyle, having a child for the first time after age 30, and using tobacco products can up your risk. This cancer is also more likely to occur in younger women, adds Brian Czerniecki, M.D., chair of the department of breast oncology at Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. According to one 2020 study, 22.63% of younger women had HER2-positive breast cancer compared with 13.41% of older women.

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    Who May Not Be Able To Have Herceptin

    Herceptin should not be used to treat people with breast, oesophageal or stomach cancer that is not HER2 positive.

    It may also not be suitable if:

    • you have a pre-existing heart condition, such as heart failure, severe angina or a problem with your heart valves
    • you have poorly controlled high blood pressure
    • you’re pregnant
    • you’re breastfeeding

    Avoid becoming pregnant while taking herceptin and for at least 7 months after treatment stops, as it could harm your developing baby.

    Also avoid breastfeeding until at least 7 months after treatment stops, as the medicine can enter breast milk and may be harmful for babies.

    Are There Any Risks To The Test


    You may have a little bruising or bleeding at the biopsy site. Sometimes the site gets infected. If that happens, you will be treated with antibiotics. A surgical biopsy may cause some additional pain and discomfort. Your health care provider may recommend or prescribe medicine to help you feel better.

    There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

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    How Do I Know If My Breast Cancer Is Her2 Positive Or Her2 Negative

    All invasive breast cancers are tested for HER2 levels. This is done in a hospital laboratory on a sample of breast cancer tissue removed during a biopsy or surgery. The results are usually available between one and three weeks later.

    There are various tests to measure HER2 levels. IHC is usually done first. It involves a special staining process performed on a sample of breast cancer tissue.

    Its reported as a score of 03. A score of 0 or 1+ means the breast cancer is HER2 negative. A score of 2+ is borderline and a score of 3+ means the breast cancer is HER2 positive.

    Breast cancers with a borderline result should be retested using more specialised techniques to determine if they are truly HER2 positive or negative.

    What Happens When A Her2 Test Is Inconclusive

    Inaccuracy : Sometimes, test results are inconclusive. In these instances, testing another sample might be needed, which means patients must comply with repeat testing in order to get an accurate result. Heterogenicity: There may be parts of a tumor that test HER2-positive and others that test HER2-negative.

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    The Following Statistics Are A Little Old Now They Are Much Better

    There are of course many factors that contribute to the survival of breast cancer. However, some older studies show that only about 60%of patients with HER-2 positive status invasive breast cancer are disease free after 10 years.

    In addition, about 65% survive overall .

    And, a greater number of HER-2 positive patients succumb to the illness during the first five years than those who are negative for HER-2 overexpression.

    At the same time, all other factors assumed to be equal, patients with negative HER-2 status tumors tend to be disease free at a rate of 75% over 10 years and have a slightly higher overall survival rate.

    From this, we can informally estimate that women with breast cancer which overexpresses HER-2 are about 10% more likely to have significant difficulties and ultimately succumb to the disease within the first five years, than those who do not.

    Because some of the Incidence and Prognosis rates are a little old now check out our brand new Index of Posts on Survival Rates.

    What Is The Grade Of My Tumor

    First-Line Treatment of HER2-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Grading is not the same as staging. Both are indicators of a cancers severity and prognosis, but they use different criteria. Staging deals with the tumor size, location and the distribution of cancer cells in your body. But grading is based on how the cancer cells appear under a microscope.

    The more abnormal-looking the cells are, the more likely they are to quickly grow and spread. Grades usually run from I to III. A higher grade is a more aggressive cancer. Its possible to have a Stage I tumor thats also a Grade III cancer.

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    When Is Her2 Repeated

    When 90% or more of the tumor shows one of these histologic patterns and the tumor is grade 1, HER2 testing does not need to be repeated if the initial HER2 test is negative, but if the initial test is positive, HER2 testing should be repeated due to low frequency of HER2 amplification or overexpression observed in

    Should I Enroll In A Clinical Trial

    Clinical trials are definitely worth considering, according to the Susan G. Komen organization. They offer the chance to try and possibly benefit from new treatments. The best time to join a trial is before starting treatment or, if your provider is considering changing treatments, before you switch to a new treatment. Ask your doctor if there are any trials that would suit your circumstances. You can also search the clinical trial database at or use the Susan G. Komen Metastatic Trial Search, a personalized tool to match you with clinical trials.

    Also Check: Hormone Therapy Metastatic Breast Cancer

    What Is Her2 Breast Cancer Testing

    HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. It is a gene that makes a protein found on the surface of all breast cells. It is involved in normal cell growth.

    Genes are the basic units of heredity, passed down from your mother and father. In certain cancers, especially breast cancer, the HER2 gene mutates and makes extra copies of the gene. When this happens, the HER2 gene makes too much HER2 protein, causing cells to divide and grow too fast.

    Cancers with high levels of the HER2 protein are known as HER2-positive. Cancers with low levels of the protein are known as HER2-negative. About 20 percent of breast cancers are HER2-positive. HER2 positive cancers tend to grow and spread faster than other types of breast cancer. But treatments that specifically target HER2-positive breast cancer can be very effective.

    HER2 testing looks at a sample of tumor tissue to find out whether you have HER2-positive breast cancer.

    Other names: human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, ERBB2 amplification, HER2 overexpression, HER2/neu tests

    Why Mammograms Are The Best Defense


    Breast cancer is now the number one diagnosed cancer worldwide it has overtaken lung cancer in the United States, says Dr. Samuel. But more people still die of lung cancer than breast cancer. Thanks to screening mammograms, wereable to detect breast cancer early, when its more likely to be curable, meaning early detection increases overall survival rates.

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    Tests To Detect Spread

    If you notice signs that your HER2-positive breast cancer may have spread, talk to your doctor. This is especially important if your symptoms are new, wonât go away, or you canât tell why they may be happening.

    But itâs important not to panic. Keep in mind that symptoms such as bone pain can happen from arthritis, getting older, or even from your breast cancer treatment. Meanwhile, a cough and shortness of breath could just mean you have a cold or the flu. And itâs normal to feel tired and to not be hungry after youâve had cancer treatment.

    To figure out if your breast cancer has spread, your doctor might do a variety of tests. These can include:

    • Blood tests, some of which may look for tumor âmarkersâ
    • Bone scan

    Examples Using The Full Staging System

    Because there are so many factors that go into stage grouping for breast cancer, it’s not possible to describe here every combination that might be included in each stage. The many different possible combinations mean that two women who have the same stage of breast cancer might have different factors that make up their stage.

    Here are 3 examples of how all of the factors listed above are used to determine the pathologic breast cancer stage:

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    What Are Estrogen And Progesterone Receptors

    Receptors are proteins in or on cells that can attach to certain substances in the blood. Normal breast cells and some breast cancer cells have receptors that attach to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and need these hormones for the cells to grow.

    Breast cancer cells may have one, both, or none of these receptors.

    • ER-positive: Breast cancers that have estrogen receptors are called ER-positive cancers.
    • PR-positive: Breast cancers with progesterone receptors are called PR-positive cancers.
    • Hormone receptor-positive: If the cancer cell has one or both of the receptors above, the term hormone-receptive positive breast cancer may be used.
    • Hormone receptor-negative: If the cancer cell does not have the estrogen or the progesterone receptor, it’s called hormone-receptor negative .

    Keeping the hormones estrogen and progesterone from attaching to the receptors can help keep the cancer from growing and spreading. There are drugs that can be used to do this.

    What Is Her2 And What Does It Mean

    HER2-Positive Breast CancerReduce Your Risk of Recurrence | Access Health

    HER2 is a protein that helps breast cancer cells grow quickly. Breast cancer cells with higher than normal levels of HER2 are called HER2-positive. These cancers tend to grow and spread faster than breast cancers that are HER2-negative, but are much more likely to respond to treatment with drugs that target the HER2 protein.

    All invasive breast cancers should be tested for HER2 either on the biopsy sample or when the tumor is removed with surgery.

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