Women at high risk

What are my chances of developing breast cancer?

Being at high risk of developing breast cancer means your risk of developing breast cancer is much greater than the average woman.

Women at this risk level have a 30% or greater chance of developing breast cancer, and it can be as high as 85%.

High risk

Or put another way, between about 30 and 85 of every 100 women at high risk will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer already, your family history puts you at increased risk of developing another breast cancer in the future.

Your family history or genetics specialist will be able to give you an estimate of your personal chances of developing breast cancer. To help give you a clear picture of your risk, they may also give you an estimate of your chances of developing breast cancer within the next 10 years.

Women at this risk level may carry specific gene faults that increase their chance of developing breast cancer and sometimes ovarian cancer too. These faults can sometimes be identified through genetic testing.

Genetic testing

You will be offered genetic testing if your specialist estimates there’s at least a one in 10 (10%) chance that you have a fault in a known breast cancer gene, eg BRCA1, BRCA2 or TP53. If you are found to carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 fault, this could mean your risk of ovarian cancer is increased too.

How can I manage my risk?

Your specialist will be able to give you advice on how to manage your increased risk of breast cancer.

Options may include having risk-reducing surgery (a mastectomy to remove your breasts and/or a salpingo-oophorectomy to remove your ovaries and fallopian tubes).

You may be offered a risk-reducing drug (tamoxifen or raloxifene) as an alternative to surgery.

Your specialist can also let you know whether you are eligible for earlier or more frequent breast screening, so that if you do develop breast cancer, this may be picked up early. The screening available to you will depend on a number of factors, including your age and the results of any genetic tests you can have.

Your clinic can also provide psychological counselling or arrange this for you if you feel it would help you deal with the feelings caused by your increased risk of breast cancer. If you are eligible for genetic testing, you will be offered genetic counselling too.

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Related information
Ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer

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Watch our video explaining how breast cancer risk can be passed down in genes

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How genetic testing works, and the likely process for you and your family

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