Uncovering TNBC: Stories of Resilience

Uncovering TNBC: Stories of Resilience

No matter what type of cancer you have, you’re in for a fight. But for Black women who have a higher chance of developing or are newly diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), it can be an uphill battle. Not only are non-Hispanic Black women ~2x more likely to have TNBC than non-Hispanic white women, they also face barriers like unsatisfying communications with doctors, delays between diagnosis and treatment and lack of adequate insurance or resources.

We’re here to take a stand. We’re here to talk about those challenges and rise above them, together. We’re here to Uncover TNBC.

Uncovering TNBC is brought
to you by Merck, in collaboration with

tnbc foundation logo
tigerlily foundation logo
living beyond breast cancer logo

Uncovering TNBC: Stories of Resilience

Moderated by Yvonne Orji, this docuseries spotlights three brave warriors and their experiences with TNBC. Their stories are real and raw. Inspiring and emotional. Watch to see how these women faced—and rose above—the challenges of TNBC.



Charlotte, North Carolina

Like so many others, Damesha had never heard of TNBC before she was diagnosed. While she works to get mentally and physically healthy after cancer, she’s sharing her story to raise awareness of TNBC and how it affects Black women like her.



Richmond, Virginia

Sharon knows firsthand how difficult TNBC can be—physically, emotionally and financially. Her TNBC experience inspired her to pay it forward and help empower other women fighting cancer. Watch to learn more about everything Sharon does to educate and inspire her community.



Atlanta, Georgia

Tiah didn’t always feel that she was getting the TNBC care she needed. She was able to find support outside the doctor’s office and she’s sharing her story today to help other Black women who might be in her shoes.


Uncovering TNBC Ambassador

Yvonne Orgi

Yvonne Orji is a Nigerian-American Emmy-nominated actress, comedian and writer who continues to display her versatility and passion with each project she takes on. In addition to her starring role in the critically acclaimed comedy series, Insecure, she is a distinguished stand-up comedian, feature film star, podcast host and published author.

Outside of her creative work, Yvonne is dedicated to her charitable efforts. In 2008, she spent 6 months working in post-conflict Liberia with Population Services International (PSI), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that uses social marketing to promote healthy behaviors. While in Liberia, she worked with a group of talented youth to help build a mentoring program and a weekly talk show that helped educate and prevent teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. Yvonne has brought her work with the youth community back to the States, where she is now involved with (RED) campaigns and faith-based youth ministries.

With a master’s degree in public health and a mother who is a nurse, Yvonne is incredibly aware of the challenges and disparities that Black women face in health care. As an advocate for women’s health, she is focused on championing women with TNBC so they can get the care they need.

Empower yourself with knowledge about TNBC

Being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) can feel incredibly overwhelming. Any cancer diagnosis probably feels that way, but TNBC is an aggressive, less common type of breast cancer—which means that your journey may look a little different and may have to start a little faster.

If you or a loved one is facing a TNBC diagnosis, keep reading to learn more about this type of cancer, who it affects and what your treatment options might be. Empowering yourself with knowledge will help you feel prepared and confident in the decisions you make with your care team.

What is TNBC?

TNBC (triple-negative breast cancer) cells lack 3 receptors (proteins) that help other breast cancer cells grow: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors or excess HER2 receptors. This makes it “triple-negative.”

This means treatments that are commonly used for types of breast cancer that have those receptors may not work to treat TNBC.

hormones hormoneReceptors HR+breast cancer cell her2 receptor HER2+ breast cancer cell TNBC is negative for HR and does not have excess HER2 receptors Triple-negative breast cancer cell

Who does TNBC affect the most?

TNBC is more common in women who are younger than 40, African-American or have a BRCA1 mutation (change) in their DNA.


Of people with breast cancer, about 10-15% (or about 1 in 10) have TNBC


Non-Hispanic Black women are about 2 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have TNBC

This map shows the 12 states
with the highest percentage of Black female TNBC patients.


Click on a state to see its percentage.

This data is compiled from 2018-2020 administrative insurance claims, as well as CDC diagnosis and mortality data from 2017, the most recent year available. The total female TNBC patient count was 692,000; of those, 226,000 listed a race or ethnic group. Of those 226,000, 31,000 identified as Black or African-American.

MississippiLouisianaMarylandSouth CarolinaIllinoisAlabamaGeorgiaVirginiaNorth CarolinaNew YorkTexasDelaware 40%36%31%30%26%24%24%22%18%18%17%17%

This data is compiled from 2018-2020 administrative insurance claims, as well as CDC diagnosis and mortality data from 2017, the most recent year available. The total female TNBC patient count was 692,000; of those, 226,000 listed a race or ethnic group. Of those 226,000, 31,000 identified as Black or African-American.

TNBC key terms to know

Learning about TNBC can feel like learning a new language. Here’s a quick guide to some of the terms you may hear (click on a tile to see the meaning)

A chemical messenger that tells our bodies to do specific things.

Think of a receptor like a lock that can only be opened by a specific key (in this case, a hormone such as estrogen or progesterone).

A hormone that helps develop the female reproductive system and female traits such as breasts.

A protein that tells breast cells to grow. When cells have excess receptors for this protein, they are called HER2-positive (HER2+).

A molecule inside the body that has a specific job, like being a receptor.

A microscopic structure that contains all the pieces needed for life. Humans have trillions of cells.

A small part of the code that decides how our bodies look and function.

A change in genetic code that can lead to cancer or other health issues, but can also be harmless. Mutations can be passed down from our parents or happen during our lifetimes.

A gene that can cause breast cancer. If you have a mutation in your BRCA1 gene, you may be more likely to get breast cancer.


Here are answers to frequently asked questions about TNBC and breast cancer. You can also download a guide for communicating with your health care team here.

TNBC can happen in different groups of people. However, it is most common in women who are younger than 40, African-American or have a BRCA1 mutation (change) in their DNA. Researchers do not know for sure why African-American women with these traits are more likely to have TNBC.

TNBC may be more difficult to treat than other types of breast cancer. Remember that every case of TNBC is different. You and your care team will come up with a plan that makes sense for you based on factors including:

  • The size of your tumor
  • Whether or not your cancer has spread to surrounding tissues and/or outside your breast
  • Your overall health history, and more

Some of the treatments used for other types of breast cancer are not helpful in treating TNBC. If you have been diagnosed with TNBC, talk with your doctor about your treatment options. Use this health team discussion guide to help.

“Stage” is used to describe the size of the tumor in your breast and if it has spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. There are 4 stages of invasive breast cancer. The stage you are in will affect the decisions that your care team makes about your treatment and next steps.

Lymph nodes are tiny organs that are part of your immune system and located throughout your body. They filter harmful substances and help the body fight infection and disease. Larger groupings of lymph nodes are found in places like your neck, underarm and chest. Lymph nodes are a common place that breast cancer may spread to.

Stage 1

  • The earliest stage of “invasive” breast cancer, which means cancer has grown or spread into nearby or surrounding breast tissue
  • Tumor is 2cm (about the size of a peanut) or smaller
  • Cancer either has not spread to lymph nodes or may show microscopic spread to lymph nodes
stage 1

Stage 2

  • Tumor may have started to grow up to 5cm (about the size of a lime) and sometimes larger
  • Cancer may or may not start to appear in the lymph nodes
stage 2

Stage 3

  • Cancer has usually spread to lymph nodes
stage 3

Stage 4

  • This stage means the cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body
  • Also referred to as “metastatic” cancer
stage 4

Each person’s breast cancer is unique, and the way it’s treated should be, too. The type of treatment you get may depend on your breast cancer type and stage.

There are 3 main types of treatment for breast cancer:

  1. Before surgery treatment (also known as neoadjuvant treatment)
  2. Surgery
  3. After surgery treatment (also known as adjuvant treatment)

Your care team can answer your questions, put your needs first and discuss all possible treatment options with you.

Share what you learn about TNBC

Most people don’t know about TNBC. Most don’t even know that there are different types of breast cancer. You can help us spread the word by sharing a message on your social media accounts.

Are you ready to take action?

These materials may help you talk with your doctor, understand your treatment options and hopefully overcome some of the barriers you may face. You can download them all or choose the ones that will be most helpful. These resources were created in partnership between Merck and breast cancer advocacy organizations.

Health team discussion guide

Review these questions to ask your doctor to ensure you’re getting the best care possible. Consider printing them to take with you to your next doctor visit.

health team discussion guide

Guide to the TNBC journey

Learn about the different types of treatment for breast cancer. Empowering yourself with this knowledge will help you make decisions with your care team.

TNBC journey guide

Guide to managing TNBC risk

Understand the recommendations for breast cancer screening and share them with family and friends.

managing risk guide

TNBC fact sheet

As much TNBC information as we can fit onto one page. If you only download one thing, it should be this.

TNBC fact sheet

Uncovering TNBC organizations

Tigerlily Foundation

Tigerlily Foundation is a leading global organization — whose mission is to educate, advocate for, empower and support young women — before, during and after breast cancer. Their vision is to end disparities of age, stage and color. Learn more at their website.

tigerlily foundation logo

TNBC Foundation

The Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) Foundation’s mission is to provide credible information, encourage and fund lifesaving research, advocate for patients and support the TNBC community.

TNBC foundation logo

Living Beyond
Breast Cancer

LBBC is a nationwide nonprofit made up of a powerful community bonded by breast cancer. For over 30 years, they’ve offered emotional, practical and evidence-based information and a community of support to those newly diagnosed, in treatment, post-treatment or living with metastatic disease. No matter where you are, you belong there.

living beyond breast cancer logo