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Are you at risk for breast cancer?

If someone asks you if you’re at risk for breast cancer, you’ll probably look to your family history first — did your mom, sister or aunt have cancer? If these women have all been healthy, you may think you’re safe with no risk for breast cancer. Therein lies the danger because the truth is that only about 15 percent of all breast cancer is hereditary in nature.

Did you know that only about 15 percent of all breast cancer is hereditary in nature?

This means that 85 percent of all breast cancer cases are sporadic, meaning there is no one in your family with a history of breast cancer. You may also think, I’m young, I don’t need to worry. But it’s important to educate yourself. Your risk might be higher than you think.

Reduce your risk by being proactive

Breast cancer is widespread and not all breast cancer is created equal. Each women, her diagnosis and her treatment is unique.

“It is difficult to compare one woman to the next,” said Cassandra Connerty, physician assistant at the Scott & White Round Rock 302 University Blvd. Clinic. “There is nothing a woman with an average risk can do to prevent breast cancer, but early detection is key.”

If you’d like to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, be proactive:

  • Be aware of your breasts, look often for changes or odd lumps by doing regular self-exams.
  • Come to a clinic annually for a mammogram starting at age 40, or earlier if you are at high risk.
    • A mammogram is a breast x-ray where the radiologist will look for lumps or calcium deposits to see if they’re suspicious for cancer.
    • Try to maintain a normal body weight.
    • Establish an exercise routine to stay healthy.
    • Educate yourself and be aware of breast cancer myths.
    • If you’re at high risk, talk to your doctor about blood tests or medications that are available.

“Early diagnosis is key because treatment can be minimized in many cases and a women’s chance of survivability increased,” Connerty said.

Be aware of your risks

Some increased risks of breast cancer may include:

  • Family history of breast cancer in a premenopausal woman.
  • Family history of breast cancer in males.
  • Family or personal history of ovarian cancer.
  • Personal history of a breast biopsy with a structural abnormality, called an atypia.
  • History of lymphoma with radiation to the chest wall.

“If a woman has one of these risk factors, it is important to discuss this in a high-risk breast clinic,” Connerty said. “She may require additional imaging, surveillance and attention to decrease her risks of developing breast cancer.”

Tackle cancer with confidence

It is important to educate yourself about the risks associated with breast cancer, and if you’re faced with the need for treatment, you should extensively research the facility and breast cancer team that will be working with you.

At Scott & White, there are a number of specialists who will look over your case, follow-up with treatment, and coordinate a plan that you’re comfortable with. Your team will communicate often and be aware of the latest advancements and options.

“Who you choose is important,” Connerty said. “Make sure each member of your team actively participates in professional societies to continually increase their knowledge. Above all, feel confident and comfortable with your breast cancer team. Your trust in them will help you through your healing process.”

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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Are you at risk for breast cancer?