Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

Newton-Wellesley Hospital offers Greater Boston communities a unique and comprehensive approach to identify and inform women who might not be aware of their risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer.

Thousands of women receive annual screening mammograms at Newton-Wellesley’s Women’s Imaging Center. Due to family history, several hundred are likely to be at a higher than average risk for developing breast and/or ovarian cancer.

Newton-Wellesley has pioneered the use of specially designed computer software that can analyze family health history to identify potentially high cancer risk. Breast Center and Women’s Imaging Center patients who may be at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer are informed and offered a consultation to discuss next step options.

This risk assessment service is designed to help patients at Newton-Wellesley Hospital take control of their health and well being in a proactive way.

Download Family Health History Form (pdf)
Breast Cancer Risk Assessment FAQ

Am I At Risk for Breast Cancer? 
You should consider risk assessment counseling for breast cancer risk if:

  • you have had breast cancer before you reached menopause
  • you have had ovarian cancer at any age
  • you have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with pre-menopausal breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer at any age
  • you have two or more second-degree relatives (grandmothers, aunts) with pre-menopausal breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer at any age.

Breast and Ovarian Cancer Rates 
Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths for American women. Every year, more than 200,000 women in the U.S. learn that they have breast cancer. While uncommon, men can also develop breast cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women. It is considered the deadliest of gynecological cancers because it presents few and subtle symptoms and, consequently, is most often diagnosed in its late stages. Currently, 50 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer die within five years.

Family History and Your Health 
A family history of breast or ovarian cancer has been identified as one of the major risk factors for developing these diseases. About 10 percent of breast and ovarian cancer cases are hereditary (passed along genetically from one generation to the next).

Abnormalities in either of the two known breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility genes have also been shown to increase the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. A blood test is used to determine if an individual has an alteration on one of those genes.

Creating a Family Health History Record 
Information about your family’s health history can help you make decisions about ways to prevent certain conditions or, in the case of cancer, begin screening tests for the purpose of early detection. In the case of most cancers, early detection increases the likelihood of more effective treatment and survival.

The following suggestions can help you create a record of your family’s health history:

  • Talk directly with your relatives for the most accurate health history information. Explain to them that their health information can help improve prevention and screening of diseases for all family members.
  • Ask your relatives about any health conditions they have had, including a history of chronic illnesses (such as heart disease), pregnancy complications (such as miscarriage), any developmental disabilities and cancers. Note the age of cancer diagnosis. Cancers diagnosed at a younger age have a higher risk of being hereditary. Get as much specific information as possible.
  • It is most useful if you can list the formal name of any medical condition that has affected you or your relatives. When complete, show your family health history information to your primary care physician.
  • If you are planning to have children, you and your partner should each create a family health history and show it to your physician

Download Family Health History Form (pdf)

If you have questions about Newton-Wellesley’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program, please call The Auerbach Breast Center at 617-243-5540.

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