Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer - What the Primary Care Provider Needs to Know

Nelia Afonso, MD

Disclosures

J Am Board Fam Med. 2009;22(1):43-50. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Until recently, the assessment made by the primary care provider regarding screening for breast cancer was generally limited to decisions about when to initiate mammography. Early diagnosis was stressed as the best protection against breast cancer morbidity. However, there have been recent developments in the ability to predict and modify breast cancer risk. It is therefore important for the primary care provider to be able to identify women at higher risk for breast cancer and be familiar with issues regarding screening and risk reduction. Recent data regarding the evaluation of breast cancer risk, newer screening strategies for high-risk women, and medical and surgical approaches to reduce breast cancer risk and are discussed in this article.

Each year 170,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer; screening for breast cancer is one of the topics that primary care providers should address with their patients. Screening for breast cancer has been extensively endorsed and most women in the United States more than 40 years old participate in screening activities.[1,2] In the community mammography remains the main screening tool.[3] However, there have been several important developments in the ability to predict and modify breast cancer risk. Recently, data have become available regarding the evaluation of risk, screening strategies for high- risk women, and medical and surgical approaches that can decrease breast cancer risk. Women who are concerned about their risk for breast cancer and should be counseled and managed appropriately; it is important for primary care providers to be familiar with these issues.

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