Know Your Lifetime Risk for Breast Cancer

While there are many different factors that play into your chance of developing breast cancer, it is possible to work out an idea of what your risk level may be like. While being at a high-risk level does not automatically mean that you are going to have to deal with breast cancer, this would still mean that you should take the precautions necessary to ensure that you are able to keep your body at its optimum health.

women with breast cancer awareness symbol
Risk Factors
Breast cancer risk factors can be separated into two general categories; personal and hereditary. Hereditary factors can be assessed by taking a look back at your family history, and learning about which family members have experienced breast and ovarian cancer, as well as other types of cancer, as this may then suggest that you have a hereditary risk. While genetic testing is available, these tests may not provide you with the results that you need, making it important to speak in depth with a genetic counselor first to fully understand the process and results. When it comes to the personal risk factors for breast cancer, these take into account a number of different things. Those who first got their period early in life, have not given birth or done so after the age of 35 or have experienced menopause after the age of 55, are all at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, as are those who are over the age of 50.

Working Out Your Risk Level
Even if you feel as though you may have quite a few of the risk factors mentioned above, this does not necessarily mean that you are at a high risk for breast cancer. There are online risk assessment tools that you can use, such as the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool from the National Cancer Institute, but the most accurate way to assess your risk is by visiting a healthcare professional and talking through the different risk factors with them.

Women raising awareness of breast cancer
Average, Above-Average and High-Risk Levels
Once you have determined your breast cancer risk level, then you will be able to learn more about the best ways in which you should go about screening for cancer. Those that have an average risk are usually advised to undergo a mammogram each year between the ages of 45-55, and then every other year after the age of 55. Those that have an above-average risk will find it slightly trickier to work out what needs to be done, as you need to be careful not to over-treat the issue. For those that are at a high risk level, you will need to undergo a more intensive screening program, meaning not only annual mammograms, but also yearly MRI scans. There is also medication that can be taken to lower your risk of developing breast cancer, and, in the more extreme cases, preventative surgeries can be carried out.

Studies show that around one in eight women, which works out to about 12% of women, will develop an invasive form of breast cancer at some point in their lives. In order to catch this as early as possible, it is important to be fully aware of your risk levels for developing breast cancer, so that you can make sure that you are doing all that you can to screen for, and prevent it.

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