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Duke Medicine: What puts a woman at high risk for breast cancer?

If your mom had breast cancer, does that mean you'll get it?

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Breast cancer ribbon
Duke Medicine

If your mom had breast cancer, does that mean you'll get it?

Not necessarily, says oncologist Victoria Seewaldt, MD, who directs Duke’s High-Risk Breast Clinic. “Breast cancer is a disease of aging and of just being female. Aging puts all women at risk. Having a mother who had breast cancer doesn’t automatically increase your likelihood -- a lot depends on her age at its onset, how many other relatives had breast cancer, and what type of cancer it is.”

The best way for a woman to determine her personal risk of breast cancer is to talk with her physician. Some of the things that might signal high risk include:

  • A family history of breast cancer that was diagnosed before menopause
  • A family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer in a male relative
  • Prior abnormal biopsy

For women who are determined to be at high risk for breast cancer, Duke’s clinic offers screening and individualized prevention plans that may include medications such as tamoxifen. “We also work on diet and exercise,” Seewaldt said. “We think that’s very important."

For more information about Duke's High-Risk Breast Clinic and the breast cancer gene, read the full story in the current issue of Duke Medicine's Duke Connect magazine.
And click here to learn more about the Women's Wellness Clinic, part of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Go Ask Mom is featuring information about breast cancer from Duke Medicine for the next few weeks leading up to the Komen Race for the Cure at Meredith College in Raleigh on June 12. Last week, Duke experts weighed in on when a woman needs a mammogram.
And learn more about WRAL's Race for the Cure team.

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