Young Girl From Utah Battles Secretory Carcinoma Of The Breast: What You Should Know About This Rare Form Of Cancer


We have all heard about the plight of eight year old Chrissy Turner who was diagnosed with Secretory Carcinoma, a rare form of juvenile breast cancer that typically occurs in children in their adolescent stage. Chrissy has been the recipient of kindness and generosity from all over the world with donations for her treatment after Melissa Papaj, her mom's friend and friend's mom, set up a fundraising campaign in her behalf, giving them the funds they needed to secure treatment for the next five years.

Chrissy's condition still brings fear into the hearts of parents everywhere, especially since "cancer" and "children" are involved. However, instead of letting fear get the better of you, let us equip ourselves with knowledge about the disease so we know what we're up against.

What is Secretory Breast Carcinoma?
This type of benign breast cancer is also called the juvenile secretory carcinoma since it affects adolescent children; however, it occurs mostly in adults, both male and female. It is known as a triple negative carcinoma but it has a favorable prognosis.

What Does "Triple Negative Carcinoma" Mean?
Patients are typically tested prior to being given treatments and the type of treatment given focuses on the type of protein that cancer cells need in order to grow. For a breast cancer, the Secretory Breast Carcinoma tests negative for estrogen, progesterone and ERBB2 (also known as HER2/neu) receptors, which basically mean that even if a treatment blocks estrogen and progesterone hormones, the cancer cells will continue to grow because it does not require protein from those hormones survive. As for ERBB2, this is a type of protein that is needed for normal cell growth that usually tests positive for ovarian and breast cancers. So what does it mean? To put it simply, treatments that target estrogen, progesterone and ERBB2/HER2 are useless against this cancer but, on the upside, it will respond to chemotherapy.

How early does it develop?
Secretory Breast Carcinoma is a rare type of cancer and, as such, much study still has to be done in order to fully understand it but what is known is that it is a slow growing type of cancer. Chrissy's case may seem to be out of the ordinary because of her age but an earlier case showed that a three year old girl had already been diagnosed with this cancer in the early 2000s.

How can you determine if your child may be at risk for Secretory Breast Carcinoma?
First of all, keep in mind that this cancer attacks both males and females so don't think that only daughters are at risk. Second, ask your children to observe their bodies. Typically, a glaring warning sign would be the formation of lumps about 3 cm. in size in the breast area, but it can also be as small as 1 cm.  Some breast ulceration or bleeding that may also occur but more often, the lump alone is a big sign already and you should take your child to the hospital to get it checked.

How can this cancer be treated?
As indicated above, the cancer cells are typically responsive to chemotherapy but doctors may also suggest mastectomy or lumpectomy.

How deadly is it?
Secretory Breast Carcinoma is really rare, making up for only 0.15 percent of total cases of breast cancer, and if identified and treated in its early stages, can still be cured. There is a chance for the cancer to return but it usually takes a long time for that to happen but, if it does, treatment is also readily available. For young patients who are quickly treated, there is a usually a 100% survival rate so early detection and treatment is really beneficial.

Bottom line: The best way to fight the rare Secretory Breast Carcinoma and ensure the survival of the patients is early diagnosis. If you can identify the symptoms right away, it's easier to become part of the 100% survival rate statistic from this disease.

Photo: Jason Eppink | Flickr

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