While one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her life, better prevention and early detection have played a large part in reducing the number of deaths due to the disease. Many women with breast cancer don’t have any symptoms, which is why Mercy Health encourages the community to take preventative measures by participating in the High-Risk Breast Program – which identifies high-risk individuals and offers them increased screening, genetic counseling and comprehensive education about preventative options.

“Our High-Risk Breast Program is a flexible, voluntary program that allows women who are undergoing a mammogram at any of our locations to receive a risk assessment, and if they are determined to be at elevated risk, we can then facilitate increased screening and other risk-reducing options,” said Michelle Hall, a licensed genetic counselor at Mercy Health – Perrysburg Cancer Center.

The High-Risk Breast Program utilizes the newest version of the Tyrer-Cuzick risk-assessment tool, a validated model that estimates a woman’s breast cancer risk based on factors including, but not limited to: her age, body mass index (BMI), breast tissue density, obstetric history, and family history of breast cancer. Women who participate will answer a series of questions similar to ones asked during a mammogram appointment. 

“The Tyrer-Cuzick assessment takes away the guesswork and makes it easy to quantify a woman’s risk. Instead of telling someone ‘We think you’re at high risk,’ we can say, for example, ‘Your risk is 30 percent over the next 30 years,’” said Michelle.

If a woman is determined to be at high risk of breast cancer, the physician who ordered the mammogram will be notified of her actual risk score and provided options to discuss with the patient. These options might include increasing screenings, so her breast health is being monitored more frequently. Genetic testing can also be used to determine whether a patient has any hereditary risk factors for breast cancer beyond what can be identified with the Tyrer-Cuzick assessment tool. 

“Women who carry hereditary risk factors can sometimes see a lifetime risk approaching 80 to 90 percent, so we offer these women even more advanced screening options,” said Michelle.

The program is completely voluntary, women who choose not to participate are free to do so. However, any woman who is concerned about her breast health should discuss with their health care provider about risk-reducing options and whether genetic counseling might be an appropriate next step. When detected early, breast cancer has a 98% survival rate. 

Women who do not have a preferred health care provider can call Mercy Health’s High-Risk Breast Program at 567-368-1111 and a navigator can aid.