CARE FOR WOMEN AT HIGHER RISK
Having one or more risk factors for breast cancer doesn’t mean you’ll inevitably get the disease. It does mean that you should act now to try to reduce your risk. Our High-Risk Breast Cancer Program—which offers a comprehensive evaluation that covers everything from screening and genetic testing recommendations to preventive treatment options—can help you decide the next best steps for your health.
Factors that increase breast cancer risk include:
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Understand your personal risk and screening eligibility.
- Family history—having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) or multiple people on either side of your family who have had breast cancer
- Personal history of breast cancer, or of previous treatment to the chest or breasts using radiation therapy
- “Dense” breasts—breasts that have more connective tissue than fatty tissue—may indicate higher risk and require additional breast imaging to better visualize the tissue
- Genetic disposition—a higher likelihood of developing breast cancer based on your genetic makeup
- Being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent may increase your risk of having inherited mutations to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA 2. Read more about Genetic Risk Review.
Your personalized preventive plan could include more frequent breast exams and mammograms, additional screening tests, genetic testing, lifestyle changes and even surgery.
- Start screening earlier and get tested more often than women of average risk. “We recommend that women at high risk of breast cancer have a clinical breast exam twice a year, and regular screening,” says Sunny Mitchell, MD, Medical Director of The Breast Center at Montefiore Nyack Hospital. “A 3D mammogram is the gold standard for breast cancer screening, and ultrasound can be a good supplement, especially for women with dense breasts.” Your doctor also may recommend a breast MRI, which uses radio waves to create detailed images.
- Eat well and avoid excess alcohol to help reduce risk. “I encourage my patients to decrease or eliminate fried food; increase fruits and vegetables; include healthy fats (such as those found in fish, avocados and nuts); and avoid excess alcohol,” says Dr. Mitchell.
- Don’t smoke. There’s evidence of a link between smoking and breast cancer, especially in women who haven’t gone through menopause yet.
- Control your weight. Being overweight may increase your risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause.
- Embrace physical activity. Many studies have shown that physicially active women have a lower risk of of breast cancer than inactive women.
- If you’re at very high risk, you may consider a surgical option: a mastectomy (removal of the breast tissue under the skin) or removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Another possible course of action is to take medication that blocks or decreases estrogen in the body, such as tamoxifen, raloxifene or aromatase inhibitors (such as anastrozole and exemestane). The High-Risk Program’s expert physicians can help you evaluate these options.
To learn whether you’re at higher risk of developing breast cancer, make an appointment at The Breast Center by calling 845-348-7579 or using our Contact Us form.