Are You at Risk for Breast Cancer?
By Tazia Taylor
Sep 27, 2017
Updated Jul 13, 2023
5 min read
In the United States one in eight women will develop breast cancer within their lifetime. If there is history of cancer in a family, the chances increase. Hereditary breast cancers account for approximately 5% to 10% of all breast cancers. Talk to your physician about all possible risk factors and follow their screening recommendations. Women at high risk may be candidates for drugs that may prevent cancer from developing.
The American Cancer Society guidelines recommend women get a clinical breast exam as part of their regular physical checkup. The guidelines recommend about every three years for women 20-39, yearly for women 40 and older, and encourage women to use the opportunity to talk with their healthcare provider about breast health. Testing, early detection, and bringing any changes to a doctor’s attention quickly is vital.
Here are some discussion starters: What’s normal and what isn’t? What are breast cancer risk factors?
Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss guidelines with their doctors.
Take this brief quiz, to help determine what risks you may need to take into consideration and consult your physician:
BREAST CANCER RISK QUIZ
Yes No 1. Do you have a medical history of any breast cancer or of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)?
Yes No 2. Have you ever had a breast biopsy?
___________ 2a. How many breast biopsies (positive or negative) have you had?
Yes No 2b. Have you had at least one breast biopsy with atypical hyperplasia?
___________ 3. What is your age?
___________ 4. What was your age at the time of your first menstrual period?
___________ 5. What was your age at the time of your first live birth of a child?
___________ 6. How many of your first-degree relatives (mother, sister, daughter) have had breast cancer?
Do you have a medical history of any breast cancer or of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)?
A medical history of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) increases the risk of developing invasive breast cancer.
Have you ever had a breast biopsy?
2a: How many previous breast biopsies (positive or negative) have you had?
2b: Have you had at least one breast biopsy with atypical hyperplasia?
Women who have had breast biopsies have an increased risk of breast cancer, especially if their biopsy specimens showed atypical hyperplasia. Women who have a history of breast biopsies are at increased risk because of whatever breast changes prompted the biopsies. Breast biopsies themselves do not cause cancer.
What is your age?
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. The great majority of breast cancer cases occur in women older than age 50. Most cancers develop slowly over time. For this reason, breast cancer is more common among older women.
What was your age at time of your first menstrual period?
Women who had their first menstrual period before age 12 have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. The levels of the female hormone estrogen change with the menstrual cycle. Women who start menstruating at a very young age have a slight increase in breast cancer risk that may be linked to their longer lifetime exposure to estrogen.
What was your age at your first live birth of a child?
Risk depends on many factors, including age at first live birth and family history of breast cancer. For women with 0 or 1 affected relative, risks increase with age at first live birth. For women with two or more first-degree relatives, risks decrease with age at first birth.
How many of your first-degree relatives – mother, sisters, daughters – have had breast cancer?
Having one or more first-degree relatives (mother, sister, daughter) who have had breast cancer increases a woman’s chances of developing this disease.
*Specific hereditary predispositions for breast cancer, such as inheriting a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, are not considered in risk estimates with the Breast Cancer Risk Mini Quiz.