QUESTION: I am 40. After my mammogram in May, I was told I had more calcification and needed a biopsy. The biopsy revealed intraductal papillomas and sclerosing adenomas in the left breast. My maternal grandmother had breast cancer. What are the odds of developing breast cancer in a case like this?
ANSWER: Your biopsy results do not put you at high risk for breast cancer. There is only a small chance of possible trouble down the road from those types of breast changes. It's important to do regular breast self-examination and get annual mammography and breast examination by your doctor or nurse practitioner. And if there were a change that was of such concern, your close follow-up will most likely mean that it's going to be found early when breast cancers are most curable.
Also, your maternal family history of breast cancer MAY have an affect on your risk, but it really depends on your grandmother's circumstances. If she was relatively young at diagnosis, then her diagnosis may mean an increased risk for you. But if she was in her seventies and she is the only one in your family with a history of breast cancer, her cancer would most likely be attributed to the aging process—just the wear and tear of living. Don't worry too much now, enjoy your life, and keep taking care of yourself. Forty is a great age—the best part of your life is ahead.
—Marisa Weiss, M.D.