Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

When it is caught early, breast cancer is treatable

If you are at high risk for breast cancer, your doctors can help you reduce that risk. The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program is part of Aurora BayCare’s commitment to cancer prevention and early identification.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Aurora BayCare providers use the Gail Model to determine if you are at high risk for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program

Initiated in 2006, the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program was an outreach effort to area primary care practitioners to encourage the use of the Gail Model for routine breast cancer risk assessment. Women who score high are referred to the Comprehensive Breast Center at Aurora BayCare for additional consultation.

The screening program is designed to supplement traditional mammography screening practices and encourage proactive, preventative treatment among women at high risk. Within the program’s first year, area providers screened more than 5,500 women. Of those women, 13% were identified as high risk.

Aurora BayCare providers continue to use the Gail Model for breast cancer risk assessment. If you are at high risk, your provider will alert you and encourage you to contact the Comprehensive Breast Center for additional evaluation and treatment options.

What is the Gail Model?

The Gail Model is a tool used to assess your risk for breast cancer. We use a computer-based program that looks at your personal and family history to estimate your chance of developing breast cancer.

The Gail Model has been shown to accurately identify your risk of getting an invasive breast cancer during the next 5 years, and up to age 90 (lifetime risk). A score of more than 1.7% for a 5-year risk or a lifetime score of more than 2 times the normal score for your age may be a sign that you are at high risk.

The Gail Model evaluates several key factors that may increase your chances of developing breast cancer.

  • Age
  • At what age did you have your first period and deliver your first child
  • Number of relatives with breast cancer
  • How many biopsies you have had
  • History of abnormal cells on a biopsy
  • Race/ethnicity

If You're At High Risk

If you are at high risk for developing breast cancer, the Aurora Cancer Center team will review your case and help you decide on a course of action. Additional screening and/or treatment options may include:

  • Twice-annual breast exams
  • Annual mammograms
  • Breast MRIs
  • Chemoprevention (preventative drugs)
  • Surgery to remove your breasts

Chemoprevention is a drug therapy used to decrease your chances of developing breast cancer. Tamoxifen and Raloxifene are two proven drug options that help stop breast cancers from forming.

As with any drug, there can be some side effects such as hot flashes, blood clots, or endometrial thickening in post-menopausal women. Drug treatments can be stopped if side effects occur. There is a small risk of endometrial thickening turning into uterine cancer.

Preventing Breast Cancer

What can I do to help prevent breast cancer whether I am high risk or not?

  • Monitor your breasts for lumps, skin dimpling, and nipple discharge.
  • If you are a woman age 40 or older, get a mammogram every 1-2 years. (Your doctor may suggest mammograms at an earlier age.)
  • Get a yearly clinical breast exam from your primary care physician.
  • Maintain an ideal body weight.
  • Perform aerobic exercise (like walking) at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Drink no more than three alcoholic beverages per week, including beer and wine.
  • Follow a diet that is low in saturated fats

Some family histories may point to genetic concerns and your doctor may recommend you see a genetic counselor for testing for the cancer genes.

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