Triple negative refers to breast cancer that is estrogen receptor negative (ER-), progesterone receptor negative (ER-), and HER2/neu negative (HER2-). In other words, triple negative breast cancer does not express receptors for estrogen or progesterone and does not overexpress HER2. That is not to say that hormones do not influence this type of breast cancer.
For example, women with metabolic syndrome (which involves distorted hormonal interactions) are more likely to have triple negative breast cancer upon diagnosis than women without it. Recent evidence also suggests that estrogen can promote triple negative breast cancer metastasis.
However, generally speaking, drugs or foods that reduce the production of estrogen or block its effects in the body are not effective treatments for this type of breast cancer. Therefore, in addition to surgery and radiotherapy, chemotherapy represents the best opportunity to eradicate breast cancer cells and prevent metastasis. Hence, it vitally important for patients to maximize this opportunity to improve their prognosis (see our articles on Taxol or Adriamycin chemotherapy). One 2012 study also reported that prophylactic mastectomy (removal of disease-free breast as well as the breast with the tumor) improves survival in women with triple negative breast cancer.
Triple negative tumors have a greater tendency to metastasize first to the liver and brain than other breast cancer subtypes. African-American women and Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative disease than are non-Hispanic whites.

Triple negative breast cancer survival rates

In this section, we summarize available data published during the last 12 months concerning risk of recurrence for early stage triple negative disease. However, please note that outcomes can vary greatly depending on numerous factors, including those described above, as well as diet and other lifestyle choices. Also, the data below represents snapshots from studies that were conducted using different populations under a variety of circumstances. Therefore, the numbers are somewhat inconsistent and far from definitive and should not be used to calculate your likely recurrence-free survival.
However, the data is useful in getting a general idea of triple negative breast cancer prognosis and to compare outcomes depending on treatment and other factors. For example, the data suggests that patients who do not achieve a pathologic complete response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy have worse outcomes and might therefore benefit from additional monitoring and treatment.

Patient and treatment characteristics → Likelihood of progression-free survival

Progression-free survival means that no recurrence, metastasis or breast cancer-related death took place during the specified period. Local recurrence-free survival indicates that no breast cancer was found in the same breast, lymph nodes or chest wall. Distant progression-free survival means there were no distant metastases or breast cancer-related death, however a local recurrence might have occurred. Overall survival means that no death occurred from any cause (including non-breast cancer-specific causes).
Triple negative breast cancer with standard treatment
  • Standard of care treatment (includes chemotherapy) → 72% to 77% five-year progression-free survival
Degree of pathologic response after neoadjuvant chemotherapy
  • Pathologic complete response or minimal residual cancer burden (RCB-I) → 85% to 92% five-year progression-free survival
  • Moderate residual cancer burden (RCB-II) → 68% five-year progression-free survival
  • Extensive residual cancer burden (RCB-III) → 28% five-year progression-free survival
  • Residual Stage II/III disease → 57% five-year distant progression-free survival
Type of surgery
  • Stage II disease. Lumpectomy → 94% five-year distant progression-free survival
  • Stage II disease. Mastectomy → 85% five-year distant progression-free survival
BRCA mutation status
  • BRCA1 mutation carrier → 82% 2.5-year progression-free survival
  • BRCA2 mutation carrier → 71% 2.5-year progression-free survival
  • No harmful BRCA mutation → 74% 2.5-year progression-free survival
Lobular breast cancer
  • Invasive triple negative lobular carcinoma → 47% five-year progression-free survival
Ethnicity - U.S. population
  • Non-hispanic black → 79% three-year overall survival
  • Non-hispanic white → 83% three-year overall survival
  • Hispanic → 86% three-year overall survival
  • Asian American → 87% three-year overall survival
Old age at diagnosis
  • Age at least 70 → 62% five-year overall survival
  • Age at least 70, received chemotherapy (chemo) → 69%-75% five-year overall survival
  • Age at least 70, chemo recommended but no chemo → 61% five-year overall survival
  • Age at least 70, chemo not recommended, no chemo → 54% five-year overall survival
Late recurrence after early stage breast cancer diagnosis
  • Risk of breast cancer-specific death after having survived 5 years
    • ER-/PR- stage T1/T2 N0 → 92% no breast cancer-specific death during years 5-20
    • ER-/PR- stage T1/T2 N1 → 88% no breast cancer-specific death during years 5-20
    • ER-/PR- stage T1/T2 N2 → 80% no breast cancer-specific death during years 5-20

Other triple negative breast cancer articles

In the Selected breast cancer studies section below are links to 20 of the most recent studies concerning triple negative breast cancer prognosis. However, because there are so many studies concerning triple negative breast cancer, we have also organized the triple negative studies in our database by subtopic. Click on any of the links below to view comments and studies concerning that triple negative breast cancer subtopic only. The studies summarized under Prognosis of triple negative breast cancer compared to other breast cancer subtypes provide the most extensive recurrence and survival statistics for those with triple negative breast cancer.
Please also see our articles on triple negative breast cancer, which describes the disease, and what triple negative patients and survivors should eat.