Q&A Topic: Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

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Karen Arthur, MD, FACS

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Q. Do I need a breast cancer risk assessment?

A.  Having a breast cancer risk assessment is very important for every woman, even if you don’t believe you are at risk. If that surprises you, here’s a sobering statistic: At least 75 percent of women in the U.S. who develop breast cancer are NOT high-risk. That 75 percent is made up of women at low or average risk. Note that no woman in America has zero risk. A breast cancer risk assessment empowers you with potentially life-saving information. You learn your true degree of risk. You also learn what increases your risk. That is important because some risk factors are fixed and beyond your control, such as when you got your first period. But many risk factors result from lifestyle, and taking action to modify these behaviors substantially reduces your risk of developing breast cancer.

Q.  How can I reduce my risk of developing breast cancer?  

A.  By modifying certain behaviors, you dramatically lower your risk. For example, post-menopausal women who maintain a healthy weight (with a BMI or Body Mass Index of less than 25) reduce their risk by 30 percent. By engaging in intense exercise for 75 minutes a week or in moderate exercise for 150 minutes weekly, you lower your risk by 30 percent, regardless of your weight.

Q. How am I empowered by the new Breast Health Program at Northern Westchester Hospital?

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A. Starting April 4, 2016, the Breast Health Program focuses entirely on breast cancer risk assessment for women not known to be at risk—women with little or no family history of breast cancer. It is one of the few places in the U.S. that addresses this large group of women, as most breast care centers focus on high-risk women. The program fills the gap in vital education for lower-risk women, empowering them with accurate information about their personal risk factors, and partnering with them to identify the best ways to address factors within their control to substantially reduce their risk.

Q. What happens at the Breast Health Program?

A. In one 30-minute session, you have a computerized assessment of your breast cancer risk; an assessment of your risk of having a genetic mutation that increases your risk; a discussion about reducing your risk through lifestyle changes; a clinical breast exam; a review of self breast exam; and you receive a personalized breast health plan that includes recommendations for imaging.Board-Certified in surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Karen Arthur currently serves as the Medical Director of Northern Westchester Hospital’s Breast Institute at Yorktown. Before joining Northern Westchester Hospital as a breast surgeon, Dr. Arthur served as Chief of the Department of Surgery at the Westchester Medical Group, was Chief of the Department of Surgery at Northeast Permanente Medical Group, and was a partner at Southern California Permanente Medical Group. She also was a clinical instructor in surgery at the University of California–Irvine from 1979 to 1987.

Northern Westchester Hospital
Medical Director, The Breast Institute at Yorktown
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