Advertisement

What should I know about HER2-positive breast cancer?

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you should know that your breast cancer biopsy ought to be tested to see if you have HER2-positive breast cancer. This particularly aggressive type of breast cancer accounts for about 20% of all breast cancers. HER2-positive breast cancer occurs when breast cells contain too many copies of a particular gene (the HER2 gene) and excessive amounts of the protein produced by that gene. HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 -- a protein that acts as a receptor on breast cancer cells.

In healthy breasts, the HER2 protein helps in normal growth and division of breast cells. But in people who have HER2-positive breast cancer, the excess of HER2 protein can cause the breast cancer cells to divide and grow faster than normal cells or even other kinds of cancer cells. For this reason, HER2-positive breast cancer may progress more rapidly and be more likely to recur than other forms of breast cancer.

There are several tests that can examine your breast tissue sample for evidence of too many HER2 genes or too much HER2 protein. If you receive a diagnosis of HER2-positive breast cancer, there are drugs that specifically target this type of cancer and have made its treatment much more successful than it was in the past. Herceptin (trastuzumab), Perjeta (pertuzumab) and Tykerb (lapatinib) are all approved by the Food and Drug Administration for HER2-positive breast cancer.

Continue Learning about Breast Cancer

Who Benefits Most from 3D Mammograms
Who Benefits Most from 3D Mammograms
The first 3D motion pictures -- called plasticons -- were created in 1889. Now Hollywood studios crank out dozens of super-dynamic 3D-films a year (De...
Read More
What is ductal carcinoma?
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)
Ductal carcinoma is breast cancer that begins in the milk ducts. When this type of breast cancer is ...
More Answers
4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy
4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy
Simple things like regular exercise can protect your breasts.
Start Slideshow
How Is Estrogen-Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer Treated?
How Is Estrogen-Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer Treated?

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.