Rare Form Of Breast Cancer Targets The Young

CHICAGO (CBS 2) – If you’re in your 20’s or 30’s you’re more susceptible and if you’re a black woman, you face a higher risk. It’s a type of breast cancer researchers know little about. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker met two women whose stories could help save your life.

It’s rare form of breast cancer that’s more likely to strike women when they’re young.

“I found out when I was 32 years old,” said senior accountant Kiran Bal.

“I was 43,” said Sharon Powell, a former retail worker.

It’s the number one cause of death for African American women with breast cancer. It’s called triple negative, one of the most aggressive tumors doctors have ever seen.

“Even a small lump can have already spread to another part of the body,” according to researcher Dr. Rita Nanda of the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Powell was diagnosed with triple negative two years ago. After months of treatment, the former retail worker thought she was on the road to recovery, but now she’s back in chemo.

“I had a tumor in my brain,” said Powell. “I never thought this would be something that I would be hearing. I took care of myself and you know I didn’t have a history or anything.”

Dr. Nanda said it’s not entirely understood why African American women are more susceptible to triple negative breast cancer. It could be genetic or environmental causes. The causes of the disease are just as mysterious for young women like Kiran Bal who just completed 10 months of chemotherapy and radiation.

“To me it was shocking to hear that there was a breast cancer that little was known about,” acknowledges Bal.

Kiran is committed to helping doctors discover better treatments for triple negative breast cancer. Both she and Sharon participate in clinical trials. Sharon’s testing a PARP inhibitor, which is believed to make chemotherapy more effective. So far results are promising. The five year survival rates have jumped from a low of 14% to as high as 86% among women who’ve used the drug.

Kiran is hoping to meet and exceed the five year mark. She changed her lifestyle to include more exercise, a better diet and less stress.

“I made a decision early on that I was going to live every single day to the fullest because from that point on every single day was a gift,” said Bal.

It’s a gift that Sharon also treasures as she tackles this latest setback, “My goal is to continue to fight to be here for my family.”

Both women found their tumors during a self exam and both encourage all women to make the exams a priority.

Cancer clinical trials at University of Chicago – Click here

Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation – Click Here


  • malissa

    It’s not just the young. I just turned 50 when mine was found from my routine mammogram.

  • linda

    I am a white, 62 yo who just finished chemo for this – also found an a routine mammo

    • Pam

      I am a 66 white female and am finishing my chemo regime for triple neg-her breast cancer. Found during regular mammogram. I am going thru this at EDWARD HOSPITAL cancer center in Naperville IL.I have been very impressed. I would like to hear from other senior citizens with thisform of cancer.


  • Helen

    I am a 48 year old white woman who found the lump during a self exam. I just finished chemo and radiation.

  • Cynthia Lilke

    I am 38 years old and was diagnosed in January with Triple Negative breast cancer. I found a very small lump in my breast that was unusual for my body. I contacted my doctor immediately and went for my first mammogram ever shortly thereafter. I cannot stress how important it is to contact your doctor quickly when something is not right with your body. I would be very interested in any trials or research studies open for women with TNBC. I can be reached at lilke712@comcast.net.

    I would like to thank CBS for bringing attention to this rare form of breast cancer. I would especially like to thank the 2 beautiful survivors in the segment – Sharon and Kiran. You are both inspirations.

  • Teri

    My name is Teri, and I am the 10th woman on my mother’s side to be diagnosed with breast cancer. I was diagnosed at age 31, which is the same age my mother was when she died of breast cancer. At the time of my diagnosis, my own and only daughter was 9 months-old.

    Now my daughter is 3 years-old, and I am still with her. After a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, and a prophylactic oophorectomy (preventative removal of ovaries,) I am living in NED land, which is No Evidence of Disease, or remission.

    Triple negative, as the clip points out, disproportionally affects young women and/or women of color. Also, many peoples with BRCA mutations develop triple negative cancer.

    I knew I was BRCA1 positive before my diagnosis. I was going to have my breasts removed once I finished breastfeeding my baby girl. The cancer ended up beating me to the surgical punch when she was 9 months-old.

    Please educate yourself.

    Please educate others.

    Save us all.

    If you would like more information, you can reach me at bigshotfuller@me.com.

    Thank you, CBS, for raising awareness of this important topic.

  • Ruth

    I am a white, 67 year old and was diagnosed in January with triple negative tubular cancer found during a routine mammogram It would like to know if this PARP inhibitor is available to anyone beginning chemo or is it still just a study at the University of Chicago Medical Center? Where do I go for more information?

  • Husband

    My wife was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and eighteen months later she was gone. She was forty-five when she crossed over. Although, it’s been over ten years, I still think of her but it has gotten a lot easier over time. The hard part today is when I’m communicating with her family. I can truly feel how much they are missing her, especially her younger/only sister.

  • Dan Dempsey

    Another Husband

    Im not sure why CBS directed this towards only black women, it affects all women! My 45 year old white wife was diagnosed in December 2010 with Triple Negative. She discovered a lump in May and went to the doctor who did a mammogram but did not do a biopsy and told her it was nothing. She went back in October because the lump had grown and again told her it was nothing without doing a biopsy! In December she went back again because the lump had grown and now they tell her she has breast cancer. She is half way through with chemotherapy, then will have bilateral mastectomy and radiation. Trust your gut feeling not the small time doctors!! Never give up. Rush Hospital I believe has saved her life!!

  • Please Pay attention

    The information is not directed towards only black women. The article says: “If you’re in your 20′s or 30′s you’re more susceptible and if you’re a black woman, you face a higher risk.” More susceptible and face a higher risk does not mean others will not contract the disease. This is a highly emotional issue, but let’s direct our emotion toward helping the victims, not challenging the messengers.

  • Eileen

    Dear Please Pay Attention: I too watched the report and although it mentioned that young woman are more susceptible it certainly focused on it predominantly attacking black women. I agree it’s about the message and not the messenger, but the message should have focused on the rarity of the disease and not the race of the people who get it. Cancer is cancer and it doesn’t matter what color you are – it’s scary and potentially deadly for all women (and men) who may get it. The focus should have been about this rare breast cancer and bringing more attention to it so a cure can be found. Since most of the comments are coming from those who are actually fighting triple negative breast cancer (and happen to be white) then I would say that they found the focus of the story to be about race too – hmmm, maybe you should pay more attention.

  • Moshe Sharon

    In the English language the word “cancer”, besides the medical definition, is synonymous with “evil”, “scourge”, “blight” and “corruption”. Moreover, each of the synonyms actually describes the various facets of the character of a malignant tumor. First, being “evil”, the cancer has no consideration for its neighbors and will destroy them to occupy their space as it grows. Second, a “scourge” is one who sets out with a singular purpose to cause harm and destroy. Such an entity has no mercy or caring for others. Third, corruption denotes a part of a whole that is altered from its intended purpose or function in a way that disrupts and destroys, with a loss of integrity whereby an entity no longer fulfils its obligations. Additionally, corruption symbolizes a completely self-serving existence with no regard for the consequences of a breach of trust. These definitions accurately describe the aberrant cancer cells that spin off from normal ones with a mutated DNA infrastructure. Therefore in the treatment approach one needs to incorporate an adjustment in one’s way of thinking from illusionary independence to nullifying one’s ego to the extent of acknowledging that nothing is indpendent of G-d, In so doing one gains a unity with the Almighty allowing the infinite light to break through the exterior shell and dispell the darkness. Integrating such meditative techniques with the various established forms of treatment can go a long way in effecting remission. More at http://soulfulthought.blogspot.com

  • Ruth from MI

    Triple negative breast cancer is not only rare it can be associated with any age at any time, in any environment, with any race. Add to that another rare breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer and you have a deadlier combination. Breast cancer can no longer be grouped as one cancer. There are many forms and many treatment regimens and if you don’t have a knowledgeable oncologist working with you to figure out which kind you have, you need to be your own advocate and get one who is. The right treatment can save you, the wrong one can cost you your life. I am an inflammatory breast cancer survivor, and am a survivor now for 5 yrs. The old adage of “cancer is cancer” no longer applies. Get yourself checked (Men AND Women)and get the right treatment.

  • Sandy Klien

    My daughter is 25 yrs old, white and stage IIb and just had her double mastectomy endured 16 weeks of chemo and will do 30 rounds of radiation and do clinical trial chemo and her tumor was huge 7.5 cm front to back. This cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She has had a mammogram for the last 4 yrs and every mammogram said negative for cancer. Thank god her surgeon did a core biopsy! Just because your young dont back down!

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