Why Your Family History is Our Business

Health, Heritage and Your Risk of Breast Cancer-

A Message from Dr. Shailesh J. Patel, Medical Oncologist

American women have a 12% chance of developing breast cancer over their 

lifetime. However, YOUR risk is probably different. Each person’s risk 

is unique and is determined by a variety of factors. These factors include 

environment and lifestyle, family history, and heritage. 
Environment and Lifestyle

These factors are important to note because they can be controlled. Several 

studies have linked obesity to cancer development.  Being sedentary, 

overweight, or eating a diet high in processed foods greatly increases your 

risk for developing cancers – including breast cancer.    
Your Family History

Your family gives you more than just a story. In fact, genetics are the main 

infl uence when determining your risk of breast cancer. Having multiple 

fi rst-degree relatives who have had cancer diagnoses greatly increases your 

risk. Check your family tree to note for these diagnoses: 

• A fi rst-degree relative who has had two or more primary breast 


• If two relatives from the same side of your family have been 

diagnosed, with one being diagnosed before age 50

• A fi rst-degree relative with a known gene mutation, such as BRCA1 

and BRCA2

• A fi rst-degree relative with ovarian cancer

• A male fi rst-degree relative with breast cancer

• A fi rst-degree relative diagnosed with cancer before age 45

Being aware of these diagnoses within your family allows for your 

physician to know if additional screening needs to occur. 
Your Heritage 

Your heritage can infl uence your risk level. Women of Ashkenazi 

Jewish heritage have a slightly higher risk of development because of 

the prevalent gene mutation (BRCA1 and BRCA2) found within their 

genealogy. Women of African American heritage are more likely to develop 

breast cancer at a younger age and face higher mortality rates after being 

What You Need to Do

Beginning at age 40, it is recommended that women get a mammogram 

once a year. Using mammograms as a form of early detection can save your 

life. Mammograms can detect breast cancer nearly two years before a tumor 

can be felt by your doctor. At Woodlands Medical Specialists, we calculate 

your risk of developing breast cancer during your visit. If you are considered 

to have elevated risk, or have dense breasts, we may recommend a yearly 

ultrasound or MRI in addition to other regular screenings. 

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