“Am I Considered High Risk?”
Have you ever heard the term “high risk” in regard to breast cancer, not certain what it really meant, and wondered whether or not you fall into the high-risk category or not?
By definition, the medical term “high risk” pertains to the increased likelihood of an individual to develop a medical condition in comparison to the rest of the population.
When statistically compared to other women, a woman who is considered high risk for breast cancer has a higher probability of developing breast cancer during her lifetime than someone who is not considered high risk.
Every woman has her own unique probability of developing breast cancer in her lifetime that is calculated by taking into account biological, predisposed risk factors that may increase her chances of developing breast cancer.
According to the American College of Radiology, breast cancer risk factors include:
1. Having a family member with breast cancer.
2. Having a personal history of breast cancer.
3. Carrying the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations.
4. Having a family member who is a genetic mutation carrier and you remain untested yourself.
5. Having been previously treated with radiation to your chest for cancer.
6. Previously having “high-risk” results on breast biopsies such as atypias or pre-cancerous lesions.
7. Having extremely dense breast tissue.
The American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging recommend that each woman has a discussion about her personal breast cancer risk with her healthcare provider before the age of 30. Being proactive about your breast health and discovering your breast cancer risk at an early age will ensure breast cancer is detected at its earliest, most curable stage.
While high risk women may have to begin undergoing screening studies at an earlier age than women who are at average risk,(as early as ages 25-30), a common misconception is the belief that a woman who is high risk will, without a doubt, develop breast cancer. Being considered high risk is not a cause for panic. Rather, it is a cause to have open discussions with your healthcare provider and follow each of his/her recommendations that are created based on your personal health history.