HealthONE - September 12, 2022
by Rose Women's Hospital

Are you at high risk for breast cancer?

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Some women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than others.

High risk breast cancer factors

There are factors that can increase the risk of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer so it is important to be aware of these risk factors.

Family history - If a first-degree relative, such as a mother, sister, father, or child, has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, the risk of breast cancer increases for a woman. A woman's risk for breast cancer also increases if various family members on maternal or paternal side of the family have had breast or ovarian cancer.1

Genetic factors - Genetic mutations, inherited changes to specific genes, can also elevate the odds of a woman developing breast cancer. Breast cancer genes (BRCA) that become mutated impact the chances of breast cancer developing. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes that are crucial in preventing cancer. These genes help the production of proteins that repair damaged DNA and help keep cells from growing in an uncontrolled way. However, sometimes these breast cancer genes get changed or mutated which causes them to not function properly. As a result, these gene mutations can lead to cancer due to abnormal cell growth.2

Personal history of breast cancer - Women who have been diagnosed with cancer in one breast have a higher chance of getting cancer in the same breast or the other.3 Women who have been detected with benign (non-cancerous), breast diseases, like atypical hyperplasia, ductal carcinoma in situ, or lobular carcinoma in situ, also have a higher risk for breast cancer.4

Other high-risk factors include:5

  • Starting menopause at 55 years or older
  • Early menstruation at 12 years old or younger
  • Having dense breast tissue
  • Being 55 years and older

National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.

“We often see patients with very healthy lifestyles that develop breast cancer,” says Kayla Griffith, MD breast surgeon at Sarah Cannon Institute at Rose Women’s Hospital at the Rose Medical Center campus. “There are no specific diets, exercise routine or supplements that will prevent cancer. The best tool we have is screening and early detection. We know that if a cancer is caught early, the treatment options are usually less invasive and the patient has better outcomes. A healthy lifestyle will certainly help a patient recover faster, but unfortunately, it cannot prevent breast cancer.”

To support a healthy lifestyle during treatment and into survivorship, Griffith refers all of her patients to a registered dietitian and rehabilitation therapists that specialize in working with cancer patients to optimize their recovery. These services are offered at the newly launched Rose Women’s Hospital which focuses on the unique needs of women through all stages of life. In addition to breast health and cancer care, they treat and provide services for weight loss, infertility, babies, gynecology & pelvic health, wellness and more.

Early detection and diagnosis

Those who are considered high risk for developing breast cancer should talk to their doctor about when to begin screening and what type of diagnosis to receive. Early detection of breast cancer is crucial to detect cancer in its earliest stages and have the best possible outcomes. Symptoms may not always be present which is why routine screening is important.

A breast cancer diagnosis can be determined through various tests such as a mammogram, MRI, ultrasound, and a biopsy. 6 Sarah Cannon Institute at Rose Medical Center partners with Solis Mammography to offer a full spectrum of imaging services to detect breast cancer and other abnormalities in their earliest stages. These services include:

  • A screening mammogram is done routinely in women with no symptoms to detect cancer.
  • A diagnostic mammogram, which provides a more detailed x-ray, is conducted after a screening mammogram if there is suspicion of cancer.
  • A breast MRI is a test that uses magnetic energy and radio waves through the breast tissue to take images of specific areas of the breast.
  • An ultrasound, a scan that uses penetrating sound waves, can be used if there is suspicion of a tumor after a breast self-exam or a screening mammogram.
  • Women can also get a breast biopsy which removes breast tissue or fluid to examine whether there is a presence of cancer. This diagnostic procedure is the only test that can certainly confirm if cancer exists within the area of examination. 7

With varying levels of density and hormonal changes that can occur in breast tissue, it often takes a suite of imaging options and a highly trained specialist to detect early stages of cancer. Solis Mammography at the Sarah Cannon Institute at Rose Medical Center’s fellowship-trained, dedicated breast radiologists solely focus on breast cancer imaging, and their cancer detection rate is above the national average.

Treatments

Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer should discuss treatment options with their doctor and cancer specialists. There are several treatment options available so it is important to discuss which option(s) are most suitable for the patient. The patient and their cancer team might choose to do one treatment or a combination of various treatments depending on the needs of the patient. Treatments, such as surgery and radiation, are considered local treatments which target only the tumor area. Systemic treatments, including chemotherapy, hormone, and targeted therapy, target cancer cells throughout the body.8

Surgery: This is the most common type of treatment which involves the removal of the tumor. Some possible surgical options including a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, and radical mastectomy. Women may also choose to undergo a breast reconstruction after certain surgeries to help restore the breast. 9 The highly specialized breast surgeons at Sarah Cannon Institute at Rose Medical Center work closely with plastic surgeons to offer same-day reconstruction whenever medically appropriate, a unique option not always available at every facility. At Rose, 81% of mastectomies receive same-day reconstruction compared to 41% nationwide.

Radiation Therapy: This treatment only targets the area that is being treated with radiation through the use of high-energy rays to get rid of cancer cells.10

Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs are prescribed to the patient and are usually injected through the vein or given orally. The drugs travel throughout the bloodstream to target cancer cells and slow the growth or destroy them.11

Hormone Therapy: Hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, can cause cancer to grow. Some types of breast cancer are affected by these hormones because these cancer cells have proteins that attach to these hormones. Hormone therapy inhibits estrogen and progesterone from attaching to breast cancer cells to stop the growth of cancer.12

Targeted Therapy: Medicines are used to target proteins on breast cancer. These drugs block the proteins that help cancer cells continue to grow. Targeted therapy can be done as an injection under the skin, as a pill, or through the vein. 13

All these therapy options can be extremely overwhelming for patients and caregivers. The physician team at Sarah Cannon Institute at Rose Medical Center meets weekly to discuss patient cases and develop the best treatment plans for each individual patient based on their age, lifestyle, medical history and personal desires. Additionally, all Rose breast cancer patients get referred to a breast oncology nurse navigator, who can provide education, advocacy and support from diagnosis to survivorship.

“Early detection, personalized treatment, nurse navigation, and breast expertise among the physician team are all key elements to a comprehensive breast cancer program,” explains Griffith. “Patients will have the best physical and emotional outcomes when all of these are in place.”

Visit our website for more information about breast cancer treatment at Rose Medical Center.

References

American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Risk and Prevention.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breast Cancer.

National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Medically Reviewed on April 15, 2020). About Breast Cancer.


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breast Cancer.
2National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Medically Reviewed on April 15, 2020). About Breast Cancer.
3 American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Risk and Prevention.
4National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.
5National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.
6National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.
7National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.
8American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Risk and Prevention.
9National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.
10National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.
11National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.
12National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.
13National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Reviewed on April 2020). About Breast Cancer.