Breast Cancer (Adults)

Breast Cancer (Adults): Understanding Your Results

What is breast cancer?

  • Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the breast, it is called breast cancer. Although many types of breast cancer can cause a lump in the breast, not all do. Breast cancer can spread when the cancer cells get into the blood or lymph system and are carried to other parts of the body.
  • Risk factors for breast cancer include variants in your genes, having other family members with breast cancer (family history), and your age. Your reproductive history can affect your risk for breast cancer. This includes how many children you have had, whether you breast-fed your children, and when you started and stopped having your period. There are also lifestyle factors that affect an individual’s risk for breast cancer including use of hormonal birth control, estrogen replacement therapy, weight and how much alcohol you drink.
  • You can learn more about breast cancer and risk factors here 

What does high risk for breast cancer mean?

  • On average, 12-13 out of 100 women, about 12-13% of women, will get breast cancer in their lifetime, by the age of 80 years.
  • High risk for breast cancer means that you have a risk of getting breast cancer of 25 or more out of 100, or 25% or greater in your lifetime, by the age 80 years. Please see your test report for more information about your specific lifetime risk for breast cancer.

  • The breast cancer risk score is integrated, meaning it takes multiple sources of risk into account. The integrated risk score includes genetic factors such as polygenic risk and family history and non-genetic factors such as reproductive history, medicine that affect hormone levels, weight, and age. This integrated score included genetic information from large research studies of people with European, East Asian, African, and Hispanic/Latino descent.

What can you do to lower your risk or detect breast cancer early?

  • Not everyone who is at high risk for breast cancer will get it.
  • Early breast cancer detection:
    • Continue or start to perform monthly breast self-exams ( This is important to help you know your own breasts and notice any changes as soon as possible. You should talk to your doctor if you notice any changes.
    • For women at high risk for breast cancer, we suggest alternating mammograms and breast MRI every 6 months, beginning at age 40 or 10 years younger than the youngest family member’s breast cancer diagnosis, whichever is younger.
  • To lower your risk:
    • Talk to your doctor about estrogen-blocking medications like tamoxifen.
    • Talk to your doctor about avoiding medications containing estrogen.
    • Consider breast feeding if appropriate.
    • Maintain a healthy body weight with a body mass index (BMI) ( < 25, eat a healthy diet, keep physically active and limit alcohol intake.
    • Surgical removal of healthy breasts is typically not recommended, but discuss this with your doctor if you have concerns.


What are your next steps?

  • You should share these results with your doctor(s) or other healthcare providers to discuss actions to lower your risk.
  • You may also want to share your results with your family members.
  • Your results will be uploaded to your electronic health record for you to review and will be available to your doctor(s) and other healthcare providers.
  • If you have any questions about your results, please contact the study team at your institution. You can find this contact information on the cover page of the GIRA.

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