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Am I at Risk for Breast Cancer?

September 14, 2018

Screening recommendations from the Breast Center at Chilton

While all women are at risk for breast cancer, not all women have the same risk. Factors including your personal and family medical history, genetic predisposition and lifestyle are used to assess your risk, and help your doctor make recommendations for screening and risk management. Women at a higher risk for breast cancer include:

  • Having a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or having a relative with that mutation
  • Patients with other genetic syndromes
  • Having had radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30
  • A breast biopsy showing abnormal cell growth
  • Having a calculated risk of breast cancer greater than 20 percent  

What Type of Screening Is Best for Me?

Atlantic Health System facilities use digital breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammogram, which can detect small breast tumors and decrease false positive readings.

According to Lisa Bash, MD, medical director of The Breast Center at Chilton Medical Center, “The American College of Radiology recommends annual mammogram screenings beginning at age 40 for women of average risk. Women with dense breasts may benefit from a screening ultrasound in addition to mammography.

Higher-risk women may benefit from supplemental screening with a breast MRI. For women with genetics-based increased risk, with a calculated lifetime risk of 20 percent or more, or a history of chest or mantle radiation therapy at a young age, supplemental screening with contrast-enhanced breast MRI is recommended.”

Higher-risk women with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation should consider a screening mammogram as early as age 30. Screening with contrast-enhanced breast MRI, is used for certain patients as young as age 25. And, clinical breast exams every six to 12 months are recommended.

The goal of screening examinations is to find cancers early, when they are most treatable, but they do not prevent breast cancer. Depending on your risk factors, there are some steps you can take to further reduce risk, including:

  • Lifestyle modifications including diet and exercise
  • Certain medications can decrease the risk of breast cancer in some higher-risk patients
  • Preventive mastectomy for specific patients

At Chilton Medical Center’s Breast Cancer Surveillance and Prevention Program, our physicians, nurses, genetic counselors, nutritionists and social workers will work with you to develop a plan designed for your individual risk and medical history. Call 973-831-5425 for more information.