Cancer Screening and Prevention
Diagnosis of Atypical Hyperplasia
Atypical hyperplasia is not cancer, but a precancerous condition in which a multitude of abnormal cells are discovered within a duct or milk gland, or lobule, of the breast. Atypical hyperplasia cannot be detected through mammography or felt during an exam. It is often found when there was another area of concern revealed on a mammogram or during an examination that necessitated a biopsy of breast tissue for assessment. As those tissue samples are analyzed in the laboratory, atypical hyperplasia may be diagnosed.
If atypical hyperplasia is identified, your doctor will need to assess its extent and whether there is any evidence of breast cancer present. Since this condition increases the risk of developing breast cancer about four-fold, close monitoring is considered essential. Surgery is often recommended to remove and evaluate the affected tissue. In some cases, a wide local excision or lumpectomy is necessary.
Diagnosis of Lobular Carcinoma in Situ
Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is not cancer, but a precancerous condition in which abnormal cells are discovered within a milk gland, or lobule, of the breast and have not spread to surrounding tissue. Rarely detected through mammography or felt during an exam, LCIS is typically found when there was another area of concern revealed on a mammogram or during an examination that necessitated a biopsy of breast tissue for assessment. As those tissue samples are analyzed in the laboratory, LCIS may be diagnosed.
If LCIS is identified, your doctor will need to evaluate its extent and whether there is any evidence of breast cancer present. Since this condition increases the risk of developing breast cancer, close monitoring is considered essential. Most often, a recommendation of improved surveillance will be made, in the form of several physical examinations and one to two mammograms per year. This will provide your doctor with regular information on your breast tissue so that if cancer develops, it will be caught and treated at an early stage.
Family History of Breast Cancer in a First-Degree Relative
More than 75 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. However, if you do have a first-degree relative, such as your mother, sister or daughter, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk of developing it doubles. The risk is higher if the immediate relative was diagnosed with breast cancer prior to going through menopause and the cancer was found in both breasts. Additionally, if you have two first-degree relatives with breast cancer, your chance of developing the disease is five times higher. Having a male first-degree relative, such as a brother or father, with breast cancer also increases your risk.
Just because you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer it does not mean that you will get the disease. It is prudent to visit your doctor more frequently for exams, mammograms and possibly other forms of screening including an MRI or ultrasound of the breast if you have a family history of the condition. Your doctor may recommend testing for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, which are both associated with familial cases of breast cancer. In some cases, prophylactic surgery to remove the breasts may be considered if your risk is exceptionally high.
History of Radiation Therapy to the Chest
Radiation therapy may be used in the chest area to treat some forms of cancer. If you have undergone such treatment, close monitoring of your breasts for signs of cancer is very important. It is estimated that approximately 20 percent of women who received chest radiation during childhood develop breast cancer by the age of 45. The radiation is often very successful in eliminating cancerous cells and its benefits outweigh future risks. Sometimes this therapy will cause changes to normal breast cells, which increases the risk of breast cancer years later.
Your doctor will most likely recommend breast cancer screenings at an earlier age if you have a history of radiation therapy to the chest. The average woman has an initial mammography when she is 40 years old. Due to your increased risk for the disease, it may be suggested that you have an annual mammogram as well as an MRI of the breasts. Your doctor may want to begin this testing as soon as eight years after the radiation has taken place or by the age of 25.