Even early-stage tumors—one centimeter or smaller—can carry a high risk of recurrence if they are Her2, say researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. In research published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, scientists found that women with Her2-positive breast cancer face a risk of recurrence 2.68 times higher than those with Her2-negative cancers. Some stats:

• The study included 965 patients treated between 1990 and 2002.

• The median age at diagnosis was 57 years.

• More than 10 percent—98 patients—were Her2 positive.

• 77 percent were hormone-receptor-positive.

• 13 percent were triple negative.

• Those with Her2-positive tumors faced a five-year recurrence-free survival of 77.1 percent; patients with Her2- negative tumors had a five-year recurrence-free survival of 86.4 percent.

What does this mean to women with triple negative breast cancer—ER-negative, PR-negative, and Her2-negative—or those with other combinations of ER and PR status? That was not the focus of the study, but this research does demonstrate the complexity of breast cancer as a whole. In previous research, scientists have determined that triple negative cancer is primarily basal in nature, making it a separate and very specific disease. And new categories of breast cancer include luminal A and B, basal-like, and Her2-positive—triple negative is not included as a specific subtype.

Some women with triple negative do not have the highly aggressive basal-like tumors. And, for some, perhaps being Her2-negative might actually be a positive. Again, our cancers are not one-size-fits-all. And, while we need more research, we are making progress.

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