Annual digital mammography vs. genetic testing?


Question from Hally Jones: I am a 34-year-old living in the U.K. whose mother died from breast cancer at the age of 42. I am wondering whether to pay privately to have full field digital mammography done every couple of years to ease my worries on also developing the disease. Please could you advise if this is a helpful undertaking for me, or should I be looking more at preventative methods, i.e., genetic testing? Many thanks.
Answers - Lynn Schuchter In general, we often recommend screening for women with a family history of breast cancer at a younger age than we recommend for the general population. This would mean screening a decade earlier than the individual in the family who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. So with your situation, I would recommend regular surveillance with mammography, possibly digital mammography which may appear to be a more useful test than regular mammography in younger women or women with dense breasts. MRI is another way of evaluating the breast, and is sometimes used in this situation as well. It may be useful to try to find a specific center in the U.K. that is monitoring women with familial breast cancer as you may be able to take part in a clinical trial looking at surveillance. I do think you are in a different situation than the average woman and should push your doctors and the health system there for appropriate screening.

On Wednesday, April 19, 2006, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Young Women and Breast Cancer. Lynn Schuchter, M.D. and moderator Jennifer Armstrong, M.D. answered your questions about the special concerns of young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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