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Not All Breast Cancers Are Created Equal: Bringing Awareness to the Needs of Those with TNBC

Thanks in part to campaigns like Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is well known that breast cancer is the most common form of women’s cancer, with around 28,600 new diagnoses in Canada per year[1]. Less well known, however, is that a breast cancer diagnosis is unique for everyone because there are many types and subtypes of this prevalent disease. For example, prior to reading this article’s headline, had you ever heard the term TNBC before? According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Network’s (CBCN) 2022 TNBC survey, prior their diagnosis, neither had 70% of the 185 TNBC patients that were surveyed.

TNBC stands for triple-negative breast cancer and is a subtype that accounts for approximately 10-15% of all breast cancer diagnoses. TNBC is distinct from other subtypes of breast cancer because it is more rare, more aggressive, and more difficult to treat[2]. The term “triple negative” refers to this subtype’s lack of estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 proteins which can be targeted by treatments in other subtypes of breast cancer that are positive for these hormones and proteins. Compared to other subtypes of breast cancer, TNBC is more likely to be diagnosed in individuals who are younger, Black and/or Hispanic, have a BRCA mutation, or have a family history of breast cancer.

In 2022, the Canadian Breast Cancer Network surveyed nearly 1,000 Canadians who had been diagnosed with breast cancer to learn more about the unique needs of those with TNBC. The survey shed light on the often-overlooked psychosocial needs of people with TNBC, including what types of support services they used, the impact a breast cancer diagnosis has had on finances, and the education that breast cancer patients want to receive about their diagnosis. For example, the survey revealed that 94% of TNBC respondents wanted resources tailored to their diagnosis, but only 55% received these materials at the time of diagnosis. What’s more, three quarters of TNBC respondents said TNBC-tailored materials were not easy to find, which speaks to their unique and unmet needs.

In Canada, breast cancer deaths have been declining since the first Breast Cancer Awareness campaigns in 1985. This is a testament to the incredible advances made in both breast cancer awareness and treatments in recent decades. Still, the distinct needs of an estimated 1 in 8 Canadians who will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime must be addressed[3].

This Breast Cancer Awareness month, you can learn more about the unique needs of those with TNBC in the executive summary report “The Canadian Breast Cancer Network’s TNBC Project: Identifying the informational, educational and support needs of Canadians diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.”

[1] 20Canadian%20women%20will%20be,cases%20in%20women%20in%202022.
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