Characteristics of breast cancer

Characteristics of breast cancer

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP

Characteristics of breast cancer

When a biopsy is done, and cancer has been confirmed, there are additional things the oncologist needs to know about the cancer. 

Hormone receptor status: This determines if the cancer cells use either estrogen or progesterone (or both) to grow. If there are estrogen receptors on the cancer cells, it is called ER+, and for progesterone, PR+. If there aren’t any, then it is referred to as ER- and PR-. 

HER2 status: The HER2 protein can be used by some cancer cells to grow quickly. If there are high levels of HER2 on the cancer cells, it is called HER2+ breast cancer. If little or no HER2 receptors are seen, then it is HER2-. 

Breast cancer can be described as triple positive (ER+, HR+, HER2+), triple negative (ER-, PR-, HER2-), or can be a combination of positivity or negativity of any of them. 

Ductal vs lobular: This describes the area of the breast where the cancer cells originated, either the milk ducts or the lobules of the breast. 

Additionally, other characteristics such as how quickly the cancer cells are dividing, and how similar (or not) they look to normal cells, helps round out all of the information the oncologist needs to develop the correct treatment plan for each person with breast cancer. 

Are you interested in learning more about Breast Cancer local treatments? Check out our next article on this topic.


Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP
Julie is an oncology certified Oncology Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of medical oncology experience. In addition to her clinical work, she is an accomplished healthcare writer providing oncology content for various publications. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for a Master's nursing program and a chair for Doctoral nursing students.

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