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Breast cancer - Know your type

Breast cancer - Knowing your type can make a difference

The importance of knowing HER2 and ER status

Wednesday 24 October For immediate release

A leading local breast surgeon says it is important that women know about their type of breast cancer, as well as relevant testing and treatment options if they want to give themselves the best chance of a full recovery.

Dr Stan Govender, breast specialist at St Marks Women’s Health, says there are a number of different types of breast cancer, with different treatments and outcomes and women should make an effort to enquire about the type of breast cancer they have.

The different subtypes of breast cancer include oestrogen positive (ER+), HER2 positive (HER2+) and inflammatory breast cancer, and Dr Govender says these respond to treatment in different ways. “Once diagnosed, different types of breast cancer are treated with a combination of surgery to remove the tumour, chemotherapy to remove any remnants of the tumour and hormonal or biological therapies to help prevent recurrence or relapse.”

Dr Govender says that as each type of breast cancer responds to treatment in different ways, it’s important to know your subtype and ensure you are receiving the appropriate treatments for that type of breast cancer. “Oestrogen positive breast cancer grows in the presence of oestrogen and responds best to surgery, chemotherapy and hormonal therapies such as Tamoxifen or Aromatase Inhibitors which limit oestrogen production or block its uptake by the tumour. Approximately 70 per cent of breast cancers are oestrogen positive.”

“HER2 positive breast cancer occurs in approximately one quarter to one third of breast cancer patients and is treated with surgery, chemotherapy and a targeted therapy called Herceptin® (trastuzumab).”

“Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare but aggressive type of breast cancer in which the cancer cells block lymph vessels (an important part of the immune system) in the skin of the breast. Inflammatory breast cancer can occur in women who present with either oestrogen positive or HER2 positive breast cancer. This represents between one and five per cent of all breast cancer diagnoses in New Zealand.”

“It is vital for women to ensure they are tested and made aware of all treatment options available for their subtype of breast cancer.” Dr Govender says women wanting to find out more about the various types of breast cancer, as well as diagnosis, testing and treatment can turn to a number of local websites for more information, including:




 Ends For further information please contact:

Herceptin (trastuzumab) is a Prescription Medicine used to treat patients with early breast cancer and metastatic (spreading) breast cancer who have tumours with a large amount of the HER2 protein. Tell your doctor if you have coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, lung tumours or disease, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Possible unwanted effects: Common: chills, shivering, fever, nausea, vomiting, pain, stiffness, shaking, headache, dizziness, cough, skin rash, itchy skin, weakness, fatigue, abnormal or fast heart beat, insomnia, anxiety, depression, runny or blocked nose, cold/flu-like symptoms, chest infection, worsening cough, pain on urination, diarrhoea, hair loss, muscle or joint soreness.

Serious: shortness of breath or breathing difficulty, severe cough, severe swelling of feet or legs, chest pain, abnormal heart beat, severe diarrhoea, feeling faint.

Ask your oncologist if Herceptin is right for you. Use strictly as directed. If symptoms continue or if you experience side effects or would like further information, please talk to your oncologist or visit for Herceptin Consumer Medicine Information. Herceptin (150mg and 440mg vials) is a funded medicine for patients with early or metastatic (spreading) breast cancer who meet pre-defined criteria. A prescription charge and normal oncologist fees may apply.


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