Cancer answers: Am I at high risk for breast cancer?

Written by Community Health Network on 2/13/2014 1:15:00 PM

There's a lot of chatter in the news about whether or not mammograms are useful at detecting breast cancer. A recent study by the British Medical Journal reported that screening mammograms could lead to overdiagnosis and treatment. We know you have questions, so we asked our experts to weigh in.

“Personalized medicine and empowering women with the right information is what we do,” said Robert J. Goulet, M.D., FACS, Community Breast Care specialist and an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician. “Breast cancers grow slowly, and that gives women the opportunity to become well informed and not make rash decisions. That’s not to say that we don’t react quickly to, we do, as attested by our 24-hour appointment response to each call we receive from a patient at Community.” 

Many breast cancers are actually detected by mammograms before any symptoms appear and can help women who are diagnosed early increase their risk of survival. So, our physicians recommend asking yourself five questions to start to determine your cancer risk and get to know symptoms of breast cancer.

  1. Do you have a history of radiation treatment to the chest for any medical condition? 
  2. Do you have a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer? Gene abnormalities include BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or the syndromes Li-Fraumeni, CDH1, Cowden’s, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba. 
  3. Do you have a history of lobular neoplasia (LCIS) or atypical ductal Hyperplasia (ADH)? Also, called LCIS, this condition is not considered breast cancer, but a risk factor. LCIS is an area of abnormal cell growth in the lobules (the milk-producing glands at the end of breast ducts) that begins in the breast tissue and remains in the lobule and does not spread. 
  4. Do you have a family history of breast cancer? And if so, were these women diagnosed before the age of 50? 
  5. Know your reproduction and menstrual history. Did you begin your period before the age of 12, start menopause after the age of 55, have your first-full term pregnancy after the age of 30, or never had a full-term pregnancy or are obese after menopause? 
There are other risk factors including regular alcohol consumption, long-term use of supplemental estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapies. Postmenopausal women who are obese but have not used hormone therapy are also at high risk.

After answering these five questions, you can actually calculate your risk of developing breast cancer using the American Cancer Society's calculator. The NCI breast cancer risk calculator and other online surveys are a tool to getting better informed, but Community Breast Care specialists say it’s just a starting point.

“These are exciting times for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. Goulet. “We have the latest, cutting-edge tests onsite including second generation genetic testing. It’s truly ‘STAR WARS' medicine and we have the ability to make a confident diagnosis within 48-72 hours. Now, add our affiliation with the MD Anderson Cancer Network™ and patients are getting an expertise in breast care like none before." 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force did recently change its guidelines on mammograms. It now recommends mammograms every other year for women 50-74 and no routine mammograms for women 40-49, based on consultation with your physician. But the key for all women is to know what normal breast tissue feels and looks like. 

Perform self-examinations and have routine physicals. Talk to your family to better understand if there is a history of breast cancer or any cancer in your family. Lastly, talk to your physician. 

If you feel you are at risk, don’t delay. Community Breast Care can arrange appointments within 24-hours. Call 800.777.7775.

Appointments available!

To make an appointment with an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician at Community, call 800-777-7775 today!



1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Don't wait for the diagnosis. Get a cancer screening today! When diagnosed early, many cancers can be treated. Register for yours here.


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