How to Know If You’re at High Risk for Breast Cancer
February 13, 2019

There are many factors that distinguish whether a woman is considered at high risk for breast cancer. At CORA, our physicians and specialists can help you learn more about your risk with the following screening services:

  • 2D and 3D Digital Mammography (tomosynthesis)
  • Breast MRI
  • Breast Ultrasound
  • Image Guided Needle Biopsy
  • Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

Risk factors in a woman’s life often affect whether or not she will get breast cancer in her lifetime. While some women at higher risk don’t get the disease, and some women at lower risk do, it is important to start screening at age 40 to determine the risk level. Risk factors you cannot change include:

  • Age
  • Aspects of reproductive history such as the number of menstrual cycles in your lifetime
  • Personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Previous breast biopsies with atypia or high-risk lesions
  • Previous treatment using radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30

Women who are Ashkenazi Jewish are also considered at higher risk of breast cancer due to the BRCA 1 and 2 gene.

Alternatively, there are risk factors that you have control over. Risk factors that you can modify include:

  • Not being physically active
  • Being overweight
  • Using some forms of hormone replacement therapy
  • Aspects of reproductive history such as number of pregnancies and age when becoming pregnant
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables

How is risk calculated?

As part of your of your comprehensive breast exam, we use the Tyrer-Cuzick calculator to determine an estimated lifetime risk of breast cancer. This gives us your risk level based on family history and other information. High risk refers to a woman having a
20% or greater chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime. Intermediate risk refers to a woman having a 15-19% chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime. The average risk for a woman in the US is 12.5%.

What if I am at increased risk?

Knowledge is power. Knowing your risk will help you and your doctors come up with an appropriate management plan which can include genetic counseling, additional screening, and risk reduction strategies. Regular screening for breast cancer is the most effective way to catch the disease while it is most treatable. Screening includes self-breast exams, clinical breast exams, imaging with mammography, breast MRI and sometimes ultrasound. Risk reduction methods also include diet and lifestyle modifications, as well as surgical and medication management options.

CORA’s Suggested Screening Recommendations for High-Risk Women:

  • Self-breast exams starting at age 18
  • Clinical breast exam starting at age 25
  • Annual mammogram starting at age 30
  • Annual MRI starting at age 25 or 30 depending on genetic testing and family history

CORA and CMI are proud to have received the accreditation of “Breast Imaging Center of Excellence” by the American College of Radiology. We are the only full-service center offering mammography, ultrasound and MRI to have earned this accreditation in Central and Eastern Oregon.

If you have a high risk of developing breast cancer, please discuss this with your referring provider. They may recommend that you see a specialist. If you have questions about your risk or referral requests, please contact our care coordinators.