Breast Cancer

Hormone Receptor Status in Breast Cancer

In addition to understanding the type of breast cancer and the breast cancer stage, it’s critical that your oncologist knows if hormones or the HER2 protein are a factor in how the cancer is being fueled.

Hormone Receptor Status

The hormone receptor status of your breast cancer refers to whether the breast cancer cells are fueled by estrogen and/or progesterone, naturally occurring hormones in both women and men. When hormone receptors are present on the breast cancer cells, the hormones help the cancer to grow.

Tests are done during the diagnosis process to determine if the breast cancer cells are hormone receptor-positive (HR+) or hormone receptor-negative (HR-). If positive, it’s important to know which hormone receptors are present.

  • Estrogen-receptor positive (ER+): This means that breast cancer cells have receptors for the hormone estrogen. ER+ results indicate that the cancer cells receive signals from estrogen that promote their growth.

  • Progesterone-receptor positive (PR+): This means that breast cancer cells have receptors for the hormone progesterone. PR+ results mean that the cancer cells may receive signals from progesterone that could promote their growth.

The results of this test tell the oncologist if hormone therapy will be helpful to slow the growth of the cancer and/or help it from recurring after other treatments are complete.

HER2 Status

HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) is a protein that appears on the surface of cells to promote growth. An overabundance of this protein on breast cancer cells allows the cancer to grow faster.

A special test is done to determine if the breast cancer cells are HER2 positive, meaning that it could grow and spread quickly. About 1 in 5 women test positive for HER2. An excess of the HER2 protein is considered HER2-positive whereas HER2-negative results show that there is not an excess of the HER2 protein.

There is a third category called HER2-low. These patients are neither positive nor negative, but still have some overexpression of the HER2 protein.

A targeted therapy is usually given to HER2-positive patients to stop the overgrowth of the HER2 protein. HER2-low patients may benefit from some of the therapies given to HER2-positive patients.



HER2-Low Breast Cancer Treatment Breakthrough for Inoperable or Metastatic Breast Cancer

breast cancer patient with her2 low seeking treatment options with oncologist

Triple-Positive and Triple-Negative Breast Cancers

If the test results show that it is estrogen-positive, progesterone-positive and HER2-positive, this is called triple-positive breast cancer. This will guide the treatment planning coordinated by the medical oncologist.

However, if the tests are negative for all three, it’s a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis. This type of breast cancer tends to grow quickly. Triple-negative breast cancer will be treated differently than other types of breast cancer because it won’t respond to hormone therapies or targeted therapy for the HER2 protein.

Clinical Trials for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer are Available in Brevard County

Extensive breast cancer clinical research has resulted in understanding how different types of breast cancer grow and which therapies are going to work best for each. There is a continuous effort to improve upon what is available for triple-negative breast cancer since it doesn’t respond as well to some of the treatments used for HR+ or HER2+ breast cancer. Immunotherapy is under extensive investigation for triple-negative breast cancer with some options now available as a result of clinical trials.

Learn more about breast cancer treatments for all types of breast cancer.