Health topic

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women.1


About 1.67 million new cases are diagnosed worldwide, and over 500,000 women die of the disease each year.1 This means that one woman is diagnosed with breast cancer somewhere in the world every 20 seconds and more than three women die of breast cancer every five minutes worldwide.1

Contrary to common belief, breast cancer is not just one disease

There are several types of breast cancer, which can be classified based on the proteins (known as receptors) that coat the surface of the cancer cells. These proteins play an important role in tumour development, by signalling cells to grow and divide.

Knowing the type of breast cancer a patient has helps determine the most effective treatment approach and the likely course of the illness

Each type of breast cancer is identified by the presence or absence of three receptors found on the surface of cells: the oestrogen receptor (ER), the progesterone receptor (PR) and the Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2).2 When diagnosed, people can be confirmed as being positive or negative for more than one of these receptors.


Breast Cancer IHC/ISH portfolio

Breast Cancer IHC/ISH portfolio

With proven accuracy, VENTANA breast cancer diagnostic assays help you identify patients other assays can miss – so you can deliver the right test, with clinical confidence in the shortest possible time.

HR - positive breast cancer

Hormone Receptor (HR) -positive breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for approximately 80% of cases.2 Breast cancers are considered HR-positive when tumour cells produce abnormal amounts of receptors for the hormones, oestrogen and/or progesterone. As these hormones signal cells to grow and divide, having too many receptors on the surface of a cell can cause uncontrolled growth and the formation of a tumour. HR-positive breast cancers are commonly treated with medicines, known as hormone therapies, that block the activity of ER and/or PR, or that reduce hormone levels.

HER2-positive breast cancer

HER2-positive breast cancer – characterised by cells that over-produce the HER2 protein – represents approximately 20% of all breast cancers. This type of breast cancer can be particularly aggressive. If left untreated, it is associated with faster disease progression and poorer chances of survival compared to HER2-negative disease (i.e. breast cancer cells that are coated with normal amounts of the HER2 protein).3 Today, treatments are available which specifically target HER2, blocking the signals that cause cancer cells to grow and multiply.

Triple-negative breast cancer

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a rare form of breast cancer, accounting for around 10-20% of all breast cancers.4 It is a type of breast cancer that lacks oestrogen and progesterone receptors and does not over-produce the HER2 protein. The mechanisms that drive this type of cancer are therefore largely unknown, which makes it a particularly difficult type of breast cancer to treat. Although patients may respond to chemotherapy, overall, treatment options are limited, and the prognosis is often poor.5



1. Ferlay J, et al. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed October 2018].

2. WebMD, Types of Breast Cancer: ER Positive, HER2 Positive, and Triple Negative. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed October 2018].

3. Wolff AC, et al. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2013;31(31):3997-4013.

4. National Breast Cancer Foundation, Triple Negative Breast Cancer [Online]. Available from: [Accessed October 2018]

5. Triple Negative Breast Cancer. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed October 2018].


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