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What is metastatic breast cancer? ​​​​​​​ How do doctors make treatment decisions?SurgeryRadiotherapyChemotherapyHormone TherapyTargeted Therapy What matters most to you? Your doctor discussion guideYour questions answered
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How do  doctors  make treatment  decisions?

If you have been given a breast cancer diagnosis, your doctor will need to understand certain factors about your cancer including the stage and subtype of your tumour. This will help to determine which treatment may be most beneficial.

Why is your subtype important?

To understand what a subtype is, 
​​​​​​​please see ‘What is my subtype?’ by clicking here

There are various treatment options available for the different subtypes of breast cancer. It is important for you to fully understand the different treatment options available and the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Different treatments can impact on you and your everyday life, so it can be beneficial to talk over each option with your doctor and decide together.
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Breast cancer is grouped into specific subtypes. The subtype will be confirmed once a biopsy has been taken and tested in the laboratory. Once your subtype is known, the doctor can discuss which treatment options will be suitable for you.

Here are the four main subtypes of metastatic breast cancer:

  • 1. Hormone receptor positive/HER2 positive (HR+/HER2+)
  • 2. Hormone receptor negative/HER2 positive (HR-/HER2+)
  • 3. Hormone receptor positive/HER2 negative (HR+/HER2-)
  • 4. Hormone receptor negative/HER2 negative (HR-/HER2-), this is also known as triple-negative

What treatment can be given for each subtype?

Treatment for your breast cancer is determined by your subtype. Your cancer will be tested to see if it is both HER2 positive and HR positive. From there, you and your doctor will discuss your treatment goals, along with the benefits and drawbacks of available therapies.

The range of therapies available for metastatic breast cancer is increasing. There are now alternatives to chemotherapy.

Click on the appropriate box below to see which treatment options may be suitable for you. If you don’t know your subtype, your doctor will be able to tell you.

Hormone receptor-positive
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​​​​​​​HER2 negative

Hormone receptor-positive
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​​​​​​HER2 positive

Hormone receptor-negative
​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​HER2 positive

Hormone receptor-negative
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HER2 negative (triple negative)

Hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative

  • This subtype is also called HR+/HER2- breast cancer
  • This type of cancer has tested positive for hormone receptors
  • This type of cancer has tested negative for HER2 so will not respond to HER2 targeted therapy.

You may chose not to have any treatment for your metastatic breast cancer. Palliative care can be used instead.
Your doctor will help you understand more about your treatment options and help you decide if treatment is right for you.

Hormone receptor-positive and HER2 positive

  • This type of cancer has tested positive for hormone receptors
  • This type of cancer has also tested positive for HER2

You may chose not to have any treatment for your metastatic breast cancer. Palliative care can be used instead.
Your doctor will help you understand more about your treatment options and help you decide if treatment is right for you.

Hormone receptor-negative and HER2-positive

  • This subtype is also called HR-/HER2+ breast cancer​​​​​​​
  • This type of cancer has tested positive for HER2
  • This type of cancer has tested negative for hormone receptors so will not respond to hormone therapies

You may chose not to have any treatment for your metastatic breast cancer. Palliative care can be used instead.
Your doctor will help you understand more about your treatment options and help you decide if treatment is right for you.

Hormone receptor-negative and HER2-negative
​​​​​​​


​​​​​​​(triple negative) breast cancer

  • This subtype is also called HR-/HER2- or triple negative breast cancer​​​​​​​
  • This type of cancer has tested negative for hormone receptors so will not respond to hormone therapy.
  • This type of cancer has tested negative for HER2 so will not respond to HER2 targeted therapy.
  • There are alternative treatment options available

You may chose not to have any treatment for your metastatic breast cancer. Palliative care can be used instead.
Your doctor will help you understand more about your treatment options and help you decide if treatment is right for you.

It is important to remember if your treatment stops working and your cancer progresses, there may still be other options available to you. Ask your doctor for more information.

what is metastatic breast cancer ?

what matters most to you ?

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The What’s Breast for Me? Campaign is funded by Pfizer Healthcare Ireland. Copyright © 2024 Pfizer Healthcare Ireland. All rights reserved. This site is intended for residents of the Republic of Ireland. The information provided on this site is intended for general information and education and is not intended to be a substitute for advice provided by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patients.

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Date of preparation: January 2024