In most cases of suspected breast cancer, a doctor would require more than just a breast mammogram and a breast ultrasound to diagnose the disease. The only way to find out whether a suspicious lump/mark in the breast is cancerous or not, is to go for a breast biopsy.
And while breast biopsies would successfully point out cancerous activity if any in the breast, they would not be able to make a specialized diagnosis that would be specific to a patient and her genetic traits.
What is Breast Tissue Staining Pathology?
That’s where Breast Tissue Staining Pathology comes into the picture. Breast Tissue Staining would enable doctors to make a correct diagnosis of breast cancer based on important factors like individual genetic traits, biochemical causes and distinct patterns of the diseases. This in turn would immensely help doctors find a suitable, specific and effective treatment option for the patient in question.
Different Breast Tissue Staining Pathology Methods
Because the same breast cancer treatment would not work effectively for all ladies with the disease, breast tissue staining allows for correct diagnosis and patient specific treatment options. And there are several ways in which breast tissue staining can be done. These include the Estrogen Receptor Staining, Progesterone Receptor Staining, and HER2 Staining.
Estrogen Receptor Staining
It is a known fact that estrogen is that particular hormone in the female body that stimulates breast cell division and proliferation during important phases like menstruation, puberty and pregnancy.
However, estrogen may sometimes cause a reaction in breast cancer cells that contain a protein called estrogen receptor on their surface. When these cancer cells come in contact with circulating estrogens, the estrogen receptors present in them react to the hormone, which can cause the cancer cells to divide
The Estrogen Receptor Staining method would check whether the cancer cells present in the tumor are sensitive to estrogen. This is done via a process called immunohistochemistry wherein certain antibodies are used to test the levels of the estrogen receptor inside the tumor.
A positive report indicates that the cancer is sensitive and reactive to estrogen. This in turn can help doctors decide on Estrogen Targeting Therapy as the best possible treatment for the cancer. A negative ER report would warrant further tests.
Progesterone Receptor Staining
Similar to Estrogen Receptor Staining, the Progesterone Receptor Staining method would use antibodies to check for the presence of progesterone receptors in the cancer cells. Progesterone is another hormone that also stimulates breast health.
During the process, if the cancer cells bind with the antibodies, then it is a clear indication that the cancer cells contain progesterone receptors and are sensitive to circulating progesterones. In this case, Progesterone Targeting Therapy or other similar hormone therapies would be started to curb the progesterone levels in the body, thereby effectively treating breast cancers that belong to this category.
And finally we have the HER2 Staining Method that looks for certain specialized protein receptors on the cancer cells. Accordingly, in this method of Breast Tissue Staining, a biochemical test is conducted on the tumor to check whether it contains two protein receptors joined together in a cluster called dimmers.
These protein receptors are also called as HER2 and can send signals for the breast cancer cells to divide. And so, a test report that is HER2 positive indicates that the tumor contains a large number of HER2 protein receptors that would be sending signals to the breast cancer cells and stimulating them to divide on a constant basis. This in turn would lead to the quick spread of the cancer to other parts of the breast and possibly to other parts of the body as well.
The method employs the use of detection chemicals and antibodies to check for the HER2 levels in the body. A count of 0 indicates that the tumor is HER2 negative. However, anything above that would indicate that the tumor is HER2 positive and needs to be treated with HER2 targeting therapies like Herceptin.