Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Your Health: All women are at some risk of breast cancer, but some more so than others
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women. The greatest risk factors for developing breast cancer are being female and increasing age. Breast cancer is rare in women under the age of 30. By your 70s, the risk approaches 1 in 8. These are risk factors all women share in common. There are women, however, who are considered at increased risk for breast cancer.
Breast cancer risk can be determined by several methods. Most methods simply involve asking questions regarding personal and family history. That information can then be plugged into one of several different models to determine breast cancer risk. If a woman’s primary physician does not provide a risk assessment service, most major medical centers have genetic counselors on staff to which she can be referred.
Routine annual screening mammography is sufficient if a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer is determined to be 15 percent or less (the average patient). If the risk is 20 percent or greater, a woman is considered at high risk for developing breast cancer. These patients should undergo annual screening breast MRI in combination with mammography. These tests can be performed together once a year or separately at six-month intervals.
Women in the high-risk category include those with a known BRCA gene mutation (or having a first-degree relative with a mutation), those with a very strong family history of breast cancer, and those who received chest radiation therapy at a young age (under age 30).
Women whose risk of developing breast cancer falls between 15 and 20 percent should discuss their screening options with their physician as these patients may or may not benefit from the addition of annual screening MRI. Women in this category may include those with a prior personal history of breast cancer and those with a previous breast biopsy with certain results.
Finally, women who have a first-degree relative with breast cancer are recommended to begin annual screening mammography 10 years younger than the relative’s age at diagnosis. Most do not recommend screening before the age of 25.
Every woman’s personal risk for developing breast cancer is different. It is important to note that more than 60 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no family history. All women are at some risk. If you are concerned that you may be at increased risk, please talk to your doctor about your options.
Dr. Francie Masters is a breast radiologist with Central Baptist Hospital Breast Imaging Services.