The average woman has a 12% (1 in 8) chance to develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
Some women have a higher-than-average risk for breast cancer. This may be due to a variety of
factors, such as family history, breast density, and hormonal factors. Various computer-based
models are available to assess breast cancer risk and, depending on a woman’s individual
level of risk, different medical
management options may be available for consideration by her and her doctor(s). Options for
women who are at elevated risk for breast cancer include supplemental breast cancer screening,
genetic counseling/testing, and chemoprevention.
Supplemental Breast Cancer Screening
This refers to additional screening exams that can be done in addition to (not instead of)
regular mammograms. Some women with certain risk factors (such as breast density or family history)
can consider screening for breast cancer with other technologies, such as
and/or breast ultrasound.
Studies suggest that combining mammography
and one of these techniques can be more effective in early detection of breast cancer
when compared to mammography alone.
Some people inherit genes that make them more likely to get certain types of cancer.
Testing is available for some of these genes. A genetic consultation involves meeting with
a genetics expert who will review your personal and family history of cancer. He or she
will discuss the details of genetic testing with you - and your family if you choose -
and help you to make an informed choice about that type of testing. This person will provide
you with personalized estimates of your cancer risks which may lead to screening and medical
management options that you wouldn't have considered otherwise. These options may allow for
early detection and/or prevention of cancer.
Genetic counseling/testing can also
be useful for patients who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer to determine
whether a specific gene mutation is responsible for the cancer in the family.
This may lead to careful screening in the patient for other types of
hereditary cancer that are
associated with the gene mutation, as well as genetic testing and personalized cancer
screening in the patient’s relatives.
Medications are available that can reduce the risk of breast cancer in certain women,
depending on their individual risk factors. These medications (known as
chemoprevention) are taken orally,
typically every day for 5 years, and can reduce a woman’s risk to develop breast cancer
by up to 50%.