Every women must know their personal risk of developing breast cancer, based upon family history, estrogen exposure, number of breast biopsies, pathology of biopsies, and prior radiation to chest wall. Use the Gail Model to determine your 5-year and lifetime risks. Women with 5-year risks of > 1.7% are eligible for risk-reducing medicine (Tamoxifen/Evista), and women with lifetime risks >20% are eligible for screening by annual breast MRI. Please discuss your breast cancer risk with your physician.
Normal Risk: Age 20-40 y.o. need medical exams every 1-3 years with a baseline mammogram at age 35. After age 40, an annual medical exam and mammography are currently recommended.
High Risk: Younger than 25 y.o. need annual exams and those older need annual mammography with medical exams every 6 months. Strong consideration should be given towards genetic counseling for those with a strong family history.
I recommend women seek out imaging centers with digital mammography, ultrasound, and stereotactic core biopsy all within the same facility. Breast MRI should only be performed at centers that can also do a MRI-guided biopsy. Unfortunately, open MRI machines don’t work for breast MRI.
To find out if you qualify for a free or low-cost mammogram and Pap test and where to get screened, call:
1 (866) 442-CANCER
1 (866) 442-2262
Hereditary Breast and Ovarian (HBOC) Syndrome
For people with a strong family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or other cancers, especially at a young age, strong consideration must be given for HBOC. This syndrome is characterized by the development of breast and ovarian cancer at a young age (<50 years) and is associated with other cancer types, such a prostate, pancreatic, and uterine cancer. It causes about 10% of breast and ovarian cancers. It is caused by mutations to either a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes which can be inherited from either your mother or father.
Genetic testing for a BRCA1 or BRCA 2 mutation involves a simple blood test, but deciding to take the test is a very complicated process which requires a consultation with a genetic counselor or breast surgeon with experience in these discussions. If you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, please make an appointment with a professional in your area. More information can be seen at the Myriad Website, which is the company that runs the blood test.
This information does not replace expert evaluation and advice from a trained breast care professional. If you have noted any breast problems please seek care from a breast surgeon as soon as possible.