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Being High Risk For Breast Cancer

A small number of Canadian women (approximately 1-2%) are at high risk for developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Generally, high risk refers to a woman, who over their lifetime has at least a 1 in 4 chance, or 25% risk, of developing breast cancer. In the case of rare geneticGenetic:
Related to or caused by the genes.
Any change in the DNA sequence of a cell. Mutations can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect. Certain mutations may lead to cancer or other diseases.
in cancer influencing genesGene:
A segment of DNA that contains hereditary information.
, the risk of developing breast cancer can be as high as 85%.

What does high risk breast cancer mean?

Although the definition of high risk can vary somewhat, the following list of criteria are generally included in most definitions of those who are at high risk of developing breast cancer. 

What if I think I may be at high risk?

It’s important to remember that very few women are considered to be high risk for developing breast cancer based on these criteria – it’s just 1-2% of Canadian women.

If you think you may be at high risk for developing breast cancer, the first step is to speak to a doctor who will do an initial assessment based on your family and medical history, and consider referring you to a genetic counsellor for further assessment – or to a high risk screening program or clinic. You can use the discussion guide that we have developed when you speak to your doctor to help get all of the information and details that you many need.

Some provinces have a high risk screening program, which will connect you with a genetics clinic for genetic counselling and possible testing, and provide regular breast cancer screening if you are confirmed to be high risk. If your province or territory does not have a high risk screening program, your health care provider can provide a referral for both a genetics clinic and for breast cancer screening if necessary.

Sources :

Breastcancer.org. Prophylactic Mastectomy. Accessed January 31st, 2014.

Canadian Cancer Society. BRCA gene mutations. Accessed January 30, 2014.

National Cancer Institute. Surgery to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer. Accessed January 31, 2014

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