HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Up to 20-percent of women with breast cancer worldwide are diagnosed with Triple Negative.
Donna Hickey was diagnosed with it in January of this year.
A history of breast cancer in Donna Hickey’s family, beginning with her mother, led her to be vigilant about mammograms.
“She is the youngest of six girls in the family and each and every one had breast cancer,” said Hickey. “They are going to diagnose me with breast cancer at some point.”
But the news was even more crushing when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
“Triple negative breast cancer is the most aggressive type,” said cancer specialist Dr. Susan Rabinowe at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. “The goal here was to give systemic chemotherapy into the blood stream to try to kill the tumor cells as quickly as possible.”
Imaging showed Hickey had a tumor and eight lymph nodes in her right breast. The first line of treatment was powerful chemotherapy before a mastectomy.
“She had complete obliteration of the tumor by the aggressive chemo we gave,” said Dr. Rabinowe.
Three months later, the cancer vanished.
“It showed no evidence of disease, nothing there,” said Dr. Rabinowe.
Had the cancer spread to the lungs, liver or bones, the outlook would not have been so positive for Hickey, the mother of two.
“The treatment would be totally different,” said Dr. Rabinowe. “It wouldn’t be for curative intent, we would be trying to control it.”
“Currently we don’t have any additional therapies to offer women who don’t achieve a complete pathologic response,” said Dr. Rabinowe.
“Maybe when I’m back to work, then maybe I’ll accept that it’s gone,” said Hickey. “Now you’re still in the midst of it and you’re not maybe quite so convinced you don’t have it anymore.”
Hickey is on day 15 of 25 sessions of radiation, to prevent the cancer from returning. Dr. Rabinowe is confident she will join the thousands of others, surviving breast cancer.
African-American women and women with the breast cancer gene BRAC-1, have a higher incidence of triple negative.
Hickey was tested and was found not to carry the gene.
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