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PENNYCUICK: March Should Be Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Three of the scariest words in the English language are spoken thousands of times a day in doctors’ offices across the country: “You have cancer.” More than 12,000 Pennsylvanian women will hear those words this year as they are diagnosed with breast cancer. Some of whom are our friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers – perhaps even ourselves.

Breast cancer continues to be the second cause of death in women. Triple-negative breast cancer, specifically, accounts for up to 20 percent of all diagnosed invasive breast cancer cases, affecting about 13 in 100,000 women each year. It is also one of the most challenging breast cancers for clinicians to treat effectively.

More than 53,700 new breast cancer cases nationwide in 2019 were triple-negative breast cancer, with higher prevalence among younger women, Black, and Hispanic women, women with type 2 diabetes or carrying excess weight in the abdomen area, and those with BRCA1 mutations.

Because of the cancer’s prevalence, I introduced a Senate resolution to designate March 2023 as “Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania in an effort to promote awareness surrounding this aggressive form of breast cancer. So aggressive that it quickly grows and is likely to have spread by the time it is found. That’s why promoting triple-negative breast cancer awareness is so important.

There has been no greater ally in the fight against breast cancer than the president and founder of the PA Breast Cancer Coalition, Pat Halpin-Murphy. I have worked with her on various breast cancer measures, including the passage of state Sen. Kim Ward’s Senate Bill 8, a historic measure that breaks down financial barriers to early breast cancer detection.

Through the PA Breast Cancer Coalition’s leadership and support, Pennsylvania continues to lead the nation in triple-negative breast cancer research through its Research Grants Initiative. Each year, the PBCC offers $100,000 in research grants to scientists working to find the cause of and cure for breast cancer as well as improved treatments.

Triple-negative breast cancer cells are tough to treat since they do not contain the three key receptors that medicines and therapies typically target in other types of breast cancers. The limited therapies that address the management of triple-negative breast cancer have made treating this disease challenging for clinicians, making this research vitally important.

My advocacy journey began when my mother, grandmother, aunt, and cousins learned this news. Getting involved and advocating for women like those in my family is personally rewarding.

There is no substitute for catching cancer early. Early detection of cancer can greatly increase the likelihood of positive treatment outcomes. When cancer care is delayed or inaccessible, there is a lower chance of survival and a greater probability of complications. Overall, 77 percent of women with triple-negative breast cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.

Not only do I encourage those reading to get tested but to also help advocate for all women. Whether you enroll as a volunteer or act as a support system for those going through treatment, you can make an impact in the fight against breast cancer.

So let’s find a cure now…so our daughters don’t have to.

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