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Know Your Breast Cancer Risk Number

What is a risk number?
First let’s be clear, a high breast cancer risk number doesn’t mean a women will certainly get breast cancer and a low breast cancer risk number does not mean it’s impossible. For most women the average lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 12 percent to 13 percent. A risk of 15 percent to 20 percent is “moderately increased” and above 20 percent is described as “high risk.” It’s a good idea to understand your breast cancer risk number now. The absolute best advice is to discuss your personal breast cancer risk with your own doctor.

Why should I know my breast cancer risk number?
At-risk women are different and knowing your personal breast cancer risk number will help you make important breast health choices. American Cancer Society (ACS), SMIL radiologists and Susan G. Komen for the Cure all recommend every woman get a mammogram, each year, starting at age 40. If you are at “moderately increased” risk then ACS recommends you ask your doctor about adding breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). If you are at “high risk” the clear recommendation is that you get a mammogram plus an MRI starting at age 30.

How do I find my breast cancer risk number?

Why is breast MRI not recommended for screening all women?
Breast MRI is very safe and uses no radiation. When added to mammograms or breast ultrasounds, it catches more cancers but there are also more “false positives.” A “false positive” is something that initially looks suspicious but turns out to be harmless after more tests or a biopsy. A breast biopsy is easier and more efficient than ever before but it is important you never have more tests than medically necessary.

Next Steps
If you think you’re a candidate for breast MRI screening, talk with your doctor. You may need to work with your health insurance plan to get the test covered. Contact a SMIL facility for your breast screening or choose a facility that, like SMIL, has ACR accredited Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence, specialized breast MRI screening equipment and expert breast imaging radiologists.

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