About one out of every five breast cancers have too much human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which can fuel cancer growth. At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, we test all new breast cancers for HER2 receptors to help us personalize treatment. Our precise diagnosis and testing will get you the most effective treatment for breast cancer.

What Is HER2-Positive Breast Cancer?

All breast cells have HER2 proteins, receptors that control how the cells grow and divide. When breast tissue has extra HER2 receptors (overexpression), breast cells can multiply too quickly. The growth may become uncontrolled and lead to a tumor.

While HER2-positive cancer may be aggressive, it also responds better to specific treatments that target HER2 protein. There are no unusual symptoms or risk factors associated with HER2-positive breast cancer.

Testing for HER2 Status

Testing for HER2 is performed on a sample of breast tumor tissue taken during a biopsy or surgery. There are several tests that examine HER2. The most common include:

  • Immunohistochemistry (IHC) test: This test measures the amount of HER2 proteins found on breast cancer cells. The score will either be 0 to 1+ (HER2-negative), 2+ (borderline) or 3+ (HER2-positive).
  • Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) test: If an IHC test is borderline, this test provides more information about HER2. It looks for extra copies of the HER2 gene (which produces the HER2 protein). The result will be either positive or negative.

Breast tissue is also tested for hormone receptors (estrogen and progesterone). If a tumor tests positive for hormone receptors in addition to HER2, breast cancer may respond to hormone therapy. Cancer that tests negative for hormone receptors and HER2 is called triple negative breast cancer.

HER2+ Breast Cancer: The Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Advantage

Our comprehensive services include patient-focused care and expertise in treating every type and stage of breast cancer. When you come here for breast cancer care, you can expect:

  • Expert diagnosis: The accuracy of HER2 testing often depends on the pathologist. Our team of pathologists has experience and in-depth knowledge of breast cancer. We deliver a precise interpretation of your HER2 test.
  • Targeted therapy expertise: Penn Medicine is nationally recognized for our role in the development of targeted therapies. We provide you with access to new and promising targeted treatments through clinical trials offered in Lancaster and Philadelphia.
  • Comprehensive support: Our cancer support services supplement your treatment. You’ll have an oncology-certified nurse navigator by your side every step of the way. We provide relief and assistance when you need it most.
  • Advanced cancer care close to home: We offer academic-level breast cancer care in a community setting at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute in Lancaster. Learn more about our breast cancer care locations.

Our Approach to Treating HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

We learn as much as we possibly can about each breast cancer we diagnose. Your HER2 status allows us to personalize breast cancer treatment.

Our specialists work together to determine the most effective treatment for every breast cancer. Their experience and in-depth knowledge mean you receive a high level of care and the newest treatments and therapies. Treatment for HER2+ breast cancer may include:

Request an Appointment

To make an appointment at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, call 717-544-9400 or request a callback using our online form.

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