Although every woman in the UK has – on average – an 11 percent risk of developing breast cancer over a lifetime, an individual woman’s risk may be higher or lower depending on known risk factors including their family history, lifestyle and genes.
The BreastHealth Risk Assessment service – which uses an innovative genetic test together with supporting information about lifestyle, medical and family history factors – may be particularly beneficial for women who are concerned about their breast health, perhaps because they have lost a relative or friend to breast cancer.
Consultant breast surgeon at BHUK Cambridge, Professor Gordon Wishart explains that the risk of breast cancer increases with age and generally this has been the main determining factor for screening. However the new risk assessment can be used to help identify women for whom earlier screening or more intense screening might be advisable including MRI and/or Digital Infrared BreastScan.
BreastHealth UK is currently enhancing its Infarred BreastScan screening service and will relaunch it in August/September 2009. We apologise for the inconvenience, this is because we are updating our Digital Infarred BreastScan equipment to offer the latest advanced diagnostics screening technology.
“The national breast screening programme is aimed at women over 50 – the age when the 10 year risk of cancer reaches a threshold at which the NHS considers screening to become 'worthwhile' for the average women. However some women reach this risk threshold at a younger age and until now there has been no way of measuring this and NHS breast screening is not always available for this group of women under 50. For women who have lost a close family relative to breast cancer at an early age this offers little comfort.”
Research published last year in New England Journal of Medicine has shown that breast cancer is not one but a number of different diseases and it is thought that up to 30 percent of cases may have a genetic basis. Although genetic testing is still a relatively young technique, when combined with proven methods to elicit lifestyle and family history factors, it can help to provide breast surgeons with new insights into detection and prevention of this disease.
Professor Wishart continues: “We are offering the deCODE BreastCancer™ test as part of our new ‘BreastHealth Risk Assessment Service’. The science behind the test has been evaluated in the USA in up to 100,000 women and the test is performed using a simple mouth swab. The test looks for seven common genetic risk factors that have been shown to contribute to a large proportion of female breast cancers and the results will be presented to patients in consultation with an experienced breast surgeon and the implications fully explained.”
The BreastHealth Risk Assessment Service may be particularly beneficial for women that are concerned about their health because of family history. At present routine genetic testing for breast cancer in the NHS is usually restricted to testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are responsible for approx. 5% of breast cancer cases. Unlike the tests provide by BreastHealth UK it requires a DNA sample from a living female relative that has survived breast cancer.
“Early detection of cancer is proven to save lives. If women are informed about the factors that may increase their risk they are then in a position to take action. Likewise if it can be established that their risk level is the same or lower than the general population it can reduce anxiety,” finishes Professor Wishart.
BreastHealth UK aims to make comprehensive, personalised breast screening services readily available to a wider age group not currently included in the NHS screening programme. Another unique addition to its range of services is Digital Infrared BreastScan (DIB) which offers safe and non-invasive technology to support breast cancer screening in younger women.