Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

A Personalized Plan to Evaluate and Manage Your Breast Cancer Risk

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Assessing your risk for breast cancer and preventing it from occurring requires a personalized approach. Many different factors play important roles in determining your risk. Duke’s breast specialists help you determine your risk of breast cancer and tailor your breast care plan to your individual needs.

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Assess Your Breast Cancer Risk

Several factors affect your risk for breast cancer including:

  • Your gender and age
  • Your weight, smoking, diet, alcohol, and exercise habits
  • Family history and genetic predisposition
  • Menstruation, pregnancy, and hormone replacement therapy
  • Dense breasts on imaging and certain breast changes identified on breast biopsy 

Personalized Plan to Manage Your Breast Health
As breast specialists, we take these factors and more into consideration when personalizing a plan to help you manage your breast health. After a comprehensive consultation, we order appropriate breast imaging, determine next steps, and provide an overall management strategy for your future breast health.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Comprehensive Consultation

Your customized breast care evaluation and plan may include:

Breast Screening

Several types of breast imaging are available for screening. We will recommend the technology that suits your history, and your breasts, as well as how often you should be screened.


Tamoxifen, raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors have been shown to lower some women’s risk of breast cancer. We can help you decide if medication might be right for you.

Genetic Counseling

We work closely with the Hereditary Cancer Clinic, where genetic counselors provide testing and counseling for women who may be genetically predisposed to breast and other cancers. If necessary, we can refer you to these highly trained specialists for evaluation.


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Next Steps

Average Risk
If you are at average risk for breast cancer, you may be given a schedule for routine screening under the care of your primary care doctor.

Above Average Risk
If you're at above-average risk, you may be given a schedule for increased screening, which may include additional breast imaging and routine follow-up in the Breast Risk Assessment Clinic.

Abnormality Identified
If an abnormality is identified, you may be referred to the breast specialists at our breast clinic for additional testing.

Genetic Predisposition to Breast Cancer
If you have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, or one is suspected, you may benefit from the close relationship our breast specialists have with the genetic counselors in Duke’s Hereditary Cancer Clinic. If appropriate, they may recommend testing for BRCA1& and/or BRCA2 gene mutations -- the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer -- and will help you interpret your results. With these facts, they can discuss the options that can keep you and your family healthy. Genetic testing for other causes of hereditary breast cancer are performed when necessary.

Small Group Sessions for Returning Patients
As a returning patient, you may participate in an interactive small group session prior to your scheduled appointment. The group sessions, attended by 4-6 patients, are facilitated by a breast care provider who leads group discussions on topics such as breast cancer risk, nutrition, genetics, anxiety related to being at high risk, and more. Other Duke providers may also participate in these sessions to provide focused education on featured topics.

Comprehensive Breast Cancer Care
If needed, you will have immediate access to the entire scope of our nationally recognized breast cancer program, which includes the most advanced breast imaging technology and breast cancer treatments, medical and surgical care, clinical trials, patient and family support, and advanced breast reconstruction techniques.

Breast Imaging

We offer mammography at six convenient locations in Durham and Wake counties. Same-day appointments are available, and you can get same-day results during our Saturday clinics. Our nationally accredited breast imaging program is an American College of Radiology Breast Center of Excellence. This means it has undergone a rigorous review process to ensure it meets and follows national standards and guidelines. It is accredited in breast ultrasound, breast MRI, screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, and stereotactic biopsies.

Screening Mammograms

Two different angles of X-rays look for any changes in breast tissue that may signal a suspicious mass. 

Diagnostic Mammograms

If a suspicious area is detected, a diagnostic mammogram will focus the exam on the area in question. Diagnostic mammograms may also be recommended for women who have had breast cancer or have a new breast symptom.

3-D Mammograms

Digital breast tomosynthesis is similar in appearance to traditional digital mammography. However, its camera takes multiple X-ray images -- or photographic slices -- which are compiled to create a 3-D image of the breast. It is primarily used for screening mammograms. Studies show it is up to 40 percent more effective at detecting breast cancer than traditional digital mammography and results in up to 30 percent fewer callbacks for additional tests.

Digital Breast Ultrasound

Sound waves are used to image the breast without radiation exposure. Breast ultrasound may be recommended for women with dense breasts, or to determine the difference between fluid-filled lumps and solid masses. 

Breast MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging is not recommended as a routine screening test but may be appropriate for women with an increased risk of breast cancer. Breast MRI takes images of the breast from many angles, which allows radiologists to look more closely for cancer in soft tissue that cannot be seen using mammography. It does not use radiation.

Among the Best Cancer Hospitals in U.S.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital's cancer program is ranked among the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.
Reviewed: 11/21/2019