Many patients may not realize that they are at high risk for developing breast cancer. Family history of breast cancer is important to consider but it is not the only risk factor. Your breast health care team can be an important resource for you. They will help to better determine your risk. They can even identify ways that you could decrease your chances of developing breast cancer.
High Risk Breast Clinic
At Marshfield Clinic Health System, if a patient has questions about breast cancer risk, discussing those concerns with a primary care provider is recommended. If deemed appropriate, patients are referred to the High Risk Breast Clinic. The clinic has patients undergo a comprehensive assessment including an examination. Recommendations for an appropriate screening strategy are made based on the risk assessment and discussion with the patient.
“I may spend an hour with patients talking about all of the factors particular to each individual person,” said Mary Saeger, physician assistant in the High Risk Breast Clinic at Marshfield Medical Center.
Information provided and assessment tools help better understand your risk for breast cancer. Personal factors can include timing of menstruation cycles, menopause, birth control use, breastfeeding, prior breast biopsies and others. New mammogram technology also asks additional questions to calculate your risk score. If a patient is determined to be high risk based on that calculation, that information will be included in the mammogram result letter.
“I think having a really thorough discussion is beneficial so people best understand factors that affect their own risk, what options they have to help decrease their risk and how to best be screened,” Saeger said. “While some factors aren’t modifiable, some are, such as weight or smoking status.”
A referral to meet with a genetic counselor may be recommended depending on family cancer history.
Having these important discussions could end up saving your life. The ultimate decision is up to you.
“I think there are a lot of people who really are quite high risk and have no idea,” Saeger said. “People can be surprised by all that we talk about, including all the factors that affect breast cancer risk and what could be done to decrease risk. I like to have a partnership discussion about what they want to do with my recommendations going forward to help decrease their likelihood of developing breast cancer.”
If you have questions about your breast cancer risk, call your primary care provider. Your discussion with your provider may lead to a referral to the High Risk Breast Clinic.
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