Why is CANCER RISK ASSESSMENT important?
Elizabeth Wende Breast Care (EWBC) provides cancer risk assessment services to all of our patients.
By simply completing our health history questionnaire, we can estimate both your lifetime risk of breast cancer as well as your eligibility for genetic counseling and genetic testing. Obtaining a personalized risk assessment ensures that you are aware of the most appropriate and up-to-date management plan for your current risk level.
It is important to understand that being labeled “high risk” doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop breast cancer. However, when statistically compared to other women, your chance is higher. A typical woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 12% (1 in 8) before consideration of additional risk factors. All women, at average risk, are eligible for a screening mammogram at age 40. Women at “high risk”, either based on family history, personal risk factors, or genetic mutation status, may be eligible to begin a screening mammogram at an earlier age. Women with a calculated lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20% or greater are also eligible for an annual high-risk screening breast MRI. Breast MRI is a very sensitive and specific test for detecting breast cancer. At EWBC we have offered MRI to patients at risk for breast cancer since 2002.
Why is your family history important when calculating risk?
Your family history of breast and other related cancers is an important indicator of your own future cancer risk. Before filling out our health history questionnaire, please identify any family members who have had cancer and be sure to indicate the age at which they were diagnosed. This information is especially important in determining when you should schedule your first screening mammogram. Again, we recommend every average-risk woman pursue a screening mammogram starting at age 40. However, for instance, if your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42, you are eligible for a screening mammogram at age 32 (10 years before her diagnosis). Be sure to report your family history as accurately as possible as important management decisions are made based on this information. It is equally important to update your family history when new information becomes available. You can update your health history through our patient portal.
How is my RISK is calculated?
A “high risk” designation for breast cancer can be the result of a single risk factor or a combination of risk factors. As discussed previously, a family history of breast cancer, especially at a young age or in multiple family members will affect your personal risk. In addition, positive genetic test results for family members will likely impact your risk regardless of being on your mother’s or father’s side of the family. Also, your age, pregnancy history, breast density, BMI, previous biopsy results, exposure to chest-wall radiation, and hormonal status will all be taken into account with the Up t-date risk assessment software we use to calculate your personalized risk. Both you and your physician will receive a report that contains your calculated lifetime risk of breast cancer. If you fall within the “high risk” category and have questions, our genetic counselor, as well as the EWBC Genetic staff, are available to discuss your eligibility for breast MRI as well as the genetic counseling and genetic testing process.
Knowing your risk can help you and your doctor make informed decisions about your breast health