As the risk of breast cancer rises, so does the importance of a proactive prevention plan.
Around 12 percent of all women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lives, but a variety of factors can cause those chances to increase—sometimes drastically.
While not all heightened risk factors can be avoided, women facing increased odds can take an active role in prevention and, if necessary, early treatment by teaming with the experts at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center’s High-Risk Breast Cancer Program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
The James’ high-risk program is operated by a world-class staff that features nurse practitioners, certified genetic counselors and oncologists, and is housed at one of the nation’s leading breast cancer centers.
Here’s some information about factors that raise the risk of breast cancer—and how they can be addressed at the OSUCCC – James—from the program’s director, surgical oncologist Doreen Agnese, MD:
The impact of genetics depends on the details
“If your grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 82, that’s not a strong indication, but if your mother was diagnosed at 45 and your sister at 46, that would certainly increase your risk even if you don’t have an inherited genetic mutation that we’ve been able to identify.”
More risk = more urgency
“When you’re at a higher risk, you don’t want to just wait. You need an action plan, and that plan is different for each woman. The mammogram is the first tool we use, but for women with denser breast tissue, we can use a 3D mammogram, which is called tomosynthesis. It can see through the dense tissue better. We usually limit the use of regular MRIs to women with an estimated risk of 20 to 25 percent or higher. For example, someone with a BRCA gene mutation.
“The second tier would be the use of chemoprevention. Tamoxifen is the most well-known of these drugs, but there are others. They can reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 50 percent.
“The most aggressive step is a preventive mastectomy, which doesn’t eliminate the risk but lowers it by 90 to 95 percent.”
The pros provide the treatment, but the patient picks the path
“I always tell women if there was one right decision, there wouldn’t be so many options. [Some patients are] more inclined to want to do preventive surgery, but if someone has a family history in which women were diagnosed in their 30s and 40s and are still here in their 60s and 70s, she might be more comfortable with increased screenings. This is why it’s so important to spend time with each patient and get to know them.”
Regardless of risk, The James’ experts are partners in prevention and treatment
“It’s so important for every woman, not just the ones we see in our High-Risk Breast Cancer Program, to know their family history and undergo their regular screenings.
“We have your back. We’re here for you and we’ll make sure that, if something does occur, we’ll catch it as early as possible so you’ll have the best-possible outcome.”