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How common is HER2-positive breast cancer?

About 20% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have HER2-positive breast cancer. HER2 is a type of gene that makes a particular protein -- the HER2 protein -- that acts as a receptor on breast cancer cells. (HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.)

In people who have HER2-positive breast cancer, cancer cells contain too much of this gene, so they make too much of the HER2 protein. That's a problem, because the HER2 protein can cause breast cancer cells to divide and grow faster than other types of cancer cells. For this reason, HER2-positive breast cancer can be an especially aggressive form of breast cancer, one that may progress more rapidly and be more likely to recur than other forms of breast cancer. Fortunately, certain drugs developed specifically to treat HER2-positive breast cancer appear to improve the odds of treating this disease successfully.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.