Breast Cancer Risk Is Not the Same for Everyone
For many women, a yearly mammogram beginning at age 40 is sufficient to screen for breast cancer. However, some women are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer and may require additional screening in order to find the cancer when it is small and treatable. To learn more about your risk of breast cancer, we offer a breast cancer risk assessment appointment with optional genetic testing.
Most cancers happen by chance and are not passed down in families, but if you have one or more family members with a history of breast cancer, you may be at higher risk. Some families with a high risk for breast cancer also have an increased risk of developing other types of cancer, including ovarian cancer.
The good news is that there are options for reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
At The Breast Center, a MANA Clinic, every woman who comes in for a mammogram completes a questionnaire about her personal and family medical history on an iPad. The health history questionnaire helps determine if the woman is at higher risk than average for developing breast cancer. If her history indicates that she may be high risk, the radiologist or technologist will recommend a Risk Assessment Consultation with a specially trained nurse.
Risk Assessment and Personalized Care
During a Risk Assessment Consultation at The Breast Center, a woman meets with a registered nurse specially trained to determine her risk of developing breast cancer. The nurse will discuss her family and personal medical history in depth and recommend a personalized screening plan based on the woman’s unique risk factors. The screening plan may include additional types of screening like Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound or Breast MRI, optional genetic testing, and/or increased frequency of screening.
The Breast Center offers the most comprehensive breast screening available to women with different risk factors. For instance, 40% of women have dense breast tissue, and an Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound is recommended annually in conjunction with their yearly mammogram. Another advanced screening tool is Breast MRI. For women at the highest risk of breast cancer, this is the best screening tool available.
A Risk Assessment Consultation provides crucial information about how often and what type of screenings best benefit each woman.
Gathering Family History
If possible, it is important to talk to your family about relatives who have had a cancer diagnosis. Information on both your mother’s side and your father’s side of the family is important.
Sometimes, relatives do not want to have these conversations because they bring up painful memories of a time when their loved one was sick. It is important to encourage them to share and let them know the information could help future generations live fuller and healthier lives. If someone is adopted or has lost contact with family members, these conversations may not be possible. Affordable genetic testing provides more information and is offered at The Breast Center.
A family history of breast, ovarian, pancreatic, or metastatic prostate cancer greatly influences a woman’s personal cancer risk.
Questions to ask your family:
- Who has had cancer of any kind?
- Where did the cancer start?
- How old were they at the time of diagnosis?
- Has anyone in the family had genetic testing? If so, bring a copy of their results if possible.
Determining risk factors may also help your children, siblings, and other family members become aware of their breast cancer risk and take charge of their own breast health.
Some physicians now suggest that ALL women have a risk assessment to determine the need for screening, genetics, and risk-reducing strategies.
Approximately 5 to 10% percent of women with breast cancer have a hereditary form of the disease.
Some women have an increased risk for breast cancer because of family and personal factors that are not related to known genetic mutations. A Risk Assessment appointment at The Breast Center will help you understand your risk and if you are a candidate for genetic testing.
What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing is a highly sophisticated laboratory test that analyzes DNA from a patient’s cells and identifies the presence of chromosomal abnormalities. Many people have heard of BRCA mutations; however, several gene mutations can increase the risk of developing breast and other cancers. Patients with these mutations have a very high risk of developing cancer during their lifetime.
Who should consider Genetic Testing?
If family history is suggestive of hereditary breast cancer syndrome, patients may want to consider genetic testing.
- A clue that a mutation may exist in a family would be the presence of multiple relatives in a family with breast, ovarian, pancreatic, or metastatic prostate cancer, particularly if diagnosed at a young age.
- Patients with two first-degree relatives who have had breast cancer, such as a mother and sister or two sisters, are particularly at risk for a mutation.
- A male in the family with breast cancer or Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry also increases the likelihood of a BRCA mutation.
At the Breast Center, we are now taking the recommendation of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and testing ALL newly diagnosed breast cancer patients for mutations. We have expanded the guidelines for other patients and found mutations in individuals we might not have tested before.
For more information, see Genetic Testing FAQ or call The Breast Center at (866) 718-6266.
Anyone who wants to learn more about their risk factors, genetic testing, and screening options can schedule a risk assessment appointment. Risk Assessment appointments with our specially trained nurses are available at our Fayetteville location.