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Are You at Risk?

Breast Care

Are You at Risk for Breast Cancer?

Techniques for early detection 

Early detection is your best defense against breast cancer. In fact, 95 percent of women who find breast cancer in the earliest stages, while it's still confined to the breast, survive. 

Are you at risk for breast cancer?

No one knows for sure what causes breast cancer to strike certain people and not others. But known risk factors include:

  • Having cancer diagnosed in one breast
  • Having a family history of breast or ovarian cancers (this includes your mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother)
  • Having undergone a breast biopsy
  • Beginning menstrual periods before age 12
  • Continuing menstruation after age 50
  • Giving birth to your first child after age 30 or never giving birth
  • Undergoing estrogen replacement therapy for more than 10 years 

Could you benefit from genetic testing?

Heredity may be a factor in causing cancer in your family if you answer yes to these questions:

  • Do you have two or more close relatives who’ve had breast or ovarian cancers?
  • Did these cancers develop at an unusually early age?
  • Has a family member been diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50 or with ovarian cancer at any age?
  • Has more than one type of cancer been found in the same close relative?
  • Has breast or ovarian cancers occurred in more than one generation? 

Scientists have identified genes that, if altered, can place a family at increased risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast cancer. Knowing whether or not you carry an altered gene can be helpful in developing a personal cancer prevention and surveillance plan.

Saint Luke's breast care centers offer genetic counseling. Ask your Saint Luke's breast care specialist about the benefits, risks, and limitations of genetic testing and whether it's right for you.

Three steps to early detection 

By following these three simple steps, you will increase your chances of detecting breast cancer early:

  • Examine your breasts monthly.
  • Have a clinical breast exam by a health care professional every three years from ages 20 to 40 and every year after 40.
  • Begin getting annual mammograms when you turn 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your physician may recommend that you get annual mammograms before you turn 40. 

Ask the National Cancer Institute

What's the best method of detecting breast cancer as early as possible?

A high-quality mammogram with a clinical breast exam (an exam done by a health care provider) is the most effective way to detect breast cancer.

What are the benefits of mammograms?

Several large studies conducted worldwide show that breast cancer screening with mammograms reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer for women ages 40 to 69, especially those over 50.

What are the chances that an American woman might get breast cancer?

One in eight women will get breast cancer during their lifetimes. Age is the most important risk factor for breast cancer. The older a woman is, the greater her chance of developing breast cancer. While most breast cancers occur in women over 50, the number of cases for women over 60 is especially high. 

The older you are, the more likely you are to develop breast cancer:

At age . . .       Your chance of developing breast cancer is …

20 to 30           1 in 2,000

30 to 40           1 in 250

40 to 50           1 in 67

50 to 60           1 in 35

60 to 70           1 in 28