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Breast Density and Breast Health Risk

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. There are many factors that could increase your risk for developing breast cancer. Undergoing a breast cancer risk assessment will help you learn if you have risk factors that put you at increased risk for developing breast cancer.

Knowing your breast cancer risk is essential in developing an appropriate breast cancer screening plan.

Breast Density and the Risk for Breast Cancer

People with higher density breast are 4-6 times more likely to get breast cancer than those with the least dense breasts.

Breast density refers to the amount of fibroglandular tissue relative to fatty tissue in a woman’s breast. A woman is considered to have dense breasts if she has a lot of fibroglandular tissue and not much fatty tissue. The density of your breast will be identified by a radiologist and reported as either almost entirely fatty (which is not dense), scattered areas of fibroglandular density (which is not dense), heterogeneously dense (breast tissue is dense), or extremely dense (breast tissue is dense). If it is reported that you have heterogeneously or extremely dense breast tissue, supplemental screening with a breast MRI is recommended.

The new legislation that goes into effect early next year ensures that insurance covers 100% of the costs for additional screening exams such as MR and US. This translates to no out-of-pocket expenses for those supplemental tests.

You may benefit from breast cancer risk assessment if you have the following:

  • African American or Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer on mom or dad’s side of the family
  • Family history of breast cancer associated with gene mutation
  • Previous breast biopsy demonstrating atypical cells or lobular carcinoma in-situ (LCIS)

You are encouraged to speak with your primary care provider regarding whether you may benefit from a breast cancer risk assessment.

Where can I get my Breast Cancer Risk assessment?

MultiCare Regional Cancer Center at Tacoma General Hospital
Dr. Bobby Stevens, Dr. Eunice Cho, Morgan Steele, ARNP
1003 S. 5th St, Tacoma, WA 98405
253-403-1677

Franciscan Breast Surgery Associates at St. Joseph Medical Center:
Dr. Lynne Clark, Hannah McCabe, ARNP, Bridget Hogue, ARNP
1624 S. I St. Suite 204, Tacoma, WA 98405
253-752-8882

General Medical Necessity Criteria for Insurance Providers

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the breast for individuals who are high risk for breast cancer as defined as having any of the following:

  • Prior thoracic radiation therapy between the ages of 10 and 30
  • Lifetime risk estimated at greater than or equal to 20% as defined by models that are largely dependent on family history (e.g., Gail, Claus, Tyrer-Cuzick or BRACAPRO)
  • Personal history of breast cancer (not treated with bilateral mastectomy)
  • Personal history with any of the following:
    • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (TP53 mutation)
    • Confirmed BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutations
    • Peutz-Jehgers Syndrome (STK11, LKB1 gene variations)
    • PTEN gene mutation
  • Family history with any of the following:
    • At least one first-degree relative who has BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation
    • First-degree relative who carries a genetic mutation in the TP53 or PTEN genes (Li-Fraumeni Syndrome and Cowden and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvaicaba Syndromes, or Peutz-Jehgers Syndrome)
    • At least two first-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer
    • One first-degree relative with bilateral breast cancer, or both breast and ovarian cancer
    • First or second-degree male relative (father, brother, uncle, grandfather) diagnosed with breast cancer.
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