Medical Plaza South
The first step toward preventing breast cancer is understanding your risk of developing the disease.
What is my risk for breast cancer?
The average woman has a 12 percent (one in eight) chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. Some women have a higher than average risk for breast cancer. This may be due to a family history, dense breast tissue, hormonal factors, history of abnormal breast biopsies, and/or other factors. Ancestry can also play a role—women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent* are more likely to develop a form of hereditary breast cancer.
* Jewish with ancestors from Eastern Europe, usually Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Russia.
How is my risk determined?
Most often, health care providers use a tool called the Gail Breast Cancer Risk Assessment to estimate a woman’s breast cancer risk. However, this model has its limitations and may under- or over-estimate breast cancer risk in certain women.
We go beyond standard breast cancer risk assessment by providing our Risk Assessment and Prevention Program (RAPP). Under the direction of a certified genetic counselor and our experienced breast radiologists, we have developed a screening process that provides each breast imaging patient with a personalized breast cancer risk assessment.
This involves not only estimating breast cancer risk, but also evaluating history that is suggestive of hereditary breast cancer. Any relevant recommendations are communicated to the referring provider, as well as to patients, via a letter mailed directly to them.
I know my risk—now what?
If you have a higher risk for breast cancer, there are several available options.
- Some women may need to start mammograms at an earlier age and/or consider other screening techniques in addition to mammograms, such as breast MRI or screening breast ultrasound.
- Women who are at very high risk may want to consider medication or surgery to reduce their breast cancer risk.
- Additionally, if you have a family history of breast, ovarian, and/or other types of cancer, you can consider genetic counseling and testing. A genetic counselor will assess your risk for all types of cancer, as well as determine whether any genetic testing should be considered in you or additional members of your family. Patients who are interested in a more detailed cancer risk assessment may choose to schedule a comprehensive consultation with our genetic counselor.
When your risk is higher, the number of options available to you to achieve early detection or prevention increase exponentially. The most important thing you can do is to understand your risk so that you and your doctor can proactively manage your health.