HER-2 BREAST CANCER
What is it?
In Europe, HER-2 is called ERbB-2, but to keep it simple, I am going to refer to both as HER-2.
HER2 (Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2) is a gene that can play a role in the development of breast cancer. These genes are called oncogene.
I’ve read that mutated oncogenes can be inherited and are not inheritable, so do be careful with what you accept as a fact about this.
The HER-2 gene causes aggressive breast cancers to grow and spread faster than many other breast cancers.
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF HER-2
HER-2 positive occurs when there are too many receptors present. Receptors are like light switches sitting on the surface of the breast cell. In the case of HER-2 positive, the light switch is switched to the permanent ‘on’ position which causes the speed and spread of cancer cell growth. Fortunately, HER-2 positive is responsive to treatments that target these receptors.
THIS IS WHY IT’S ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL THAT YOU ASK FOR YOUR RECEPTOR STATUS BECAUSE IT WILL DEFINE YOUR COURSE OF TREATMENT.
Once you’ve had your biopsy, your breast surgeon will know your receptor status, a few days later which will be either,
If you have HER-2 positive breast cancer, the next thing to ask your oncologist is whether you should have chemo before surgery.
The main form of treatment for HER-2 is chemotherapy and immunotherapy (Chemo plus Herceptin or similar drug). This pairing now dramatically improves survival.
For indigenous African heritage women especially in the Caribbean and many parts of Africa, the problem comes down to the cost of medication, especially for Herceptin since it remains extremely expensive. Some countries have resorted to giving women Tamoxifen for HER-2 breast cancer because of the high cost of immunotherapy – Herceptin. Tamoxifen is a much cheaper and older type drug for treating Estrogen related breast cancer. If Tamoxifen was effective against HER-2 positive, Herceptin would never have needed to exist.
Trastuzumab helps block cancer cells from receiving chemical signals (the receptors or proteins) that communicate the spur of growth. It does this by attaching itself directly to the HER-2 protein, thereby blocking incoming growth signals. Trastuzumab was the first drug approved to specifically target the HER-2 protein. It was a game-changer in the treatment of HER-2-postive breast cancers.
HOW IS HER2 DETECTED?
To properly diagnose your HER2 status, a biopsy is necessary – breast tissue is removed from the affected area and closely examined.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
BREAST DOCTORS SHOULD ALSO CHECK: