Share The Health

Precision Medicine & Breast Cancer Screening

03-29-2016

The clinically validated risk calculation software program used by FMH Imaging Services converts the data entered to calculate each patient’s individual risk for developing breast cancer and makes it available to the interpreting radiologist immediately.

Guidelines for when to start and stop screening mammograms, as well as how often to have them, are based on the “average patient.” But what is the average patient? How do women know if their risk for developing breast cancer is average or higher than normal?

The patient answers questions about her personal habits and family history on a wireless tablet at her screening mammography appointment.

The patient answers questions about her personal habits and family history on a wireless tablet at her screening mammography appointment.

Because each person’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle are unique, medicine is turning from traditional “one size fits all” approaches to new strategies that take into account these unique characteristics. It’s called precision medicine, and it’s changing the way we improve health and treat disease.

A good example of precision medicine in action is a clinically validated risk calculation software program used by FMH Imaging Services. Each patient answers questions about her personal and family history on a wireless tablet. The software then uses this data to calculate the patient’s individual risk of developing breast cancer. The results are available immediately, allowing the radiologist to read the report in real time. Women found to be at high risk are notified the same day as their mammogram and advised to follow up with their referring physician.

“The use of this breast cancer risk assessment software is just one way that we are trying to customize healthcare to individual patients,” said Dr. Pete Kremers, a radiologist with FMH Imaging Services.

For Women at Higher Risk
The FMH Center for Breast Care’s Screening and Prevention Program is a resource for women who appear to have a greater likelihood of developing breast cancer. Nurse Practitioner Patricia Rice—who is credentialed as an Advanced Practice Nurse in Genetics through the Genetic Nursing Credentialing Commission—reviews each patient’s family history to determine if testing for certain genetic markers for breast cancer (BRCA1 & BRCA2 mutations) is appropriate.

Other factors, such as age, race, breast density, alcohol and tobacco use, and whether the patient has used hormonal replacement therapies are also considered. Based on all the information available, an individualized surveillance and prevention program is created for each woman, which may include medications, nutritional counseling, and other pro-active steps to help women at increased risk for breast cancer stay healthier longer.

A Strategy for Managing Risk

When a woman’s medical history and personal profile appear to place her at higher risk for developing breast cancer, further evaluation through the FMH Center for Breast Care’s Screening and Prevention program is an option.

FMH has the technology, tools and expertise to establish the patient’s baseline breast health profile. A genetics specialist on staff can review factors such as the patient’s family history, age, race, breast density and other factors. Based on these results, the patient can decide if she wishes to be tested for breast cancer markers (BRCA1 and BRCA2). A 3D mammogram or breast BRI may be ordered to help establish the baseline profile. In addition, there are medications available that may reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.


To learn more about the mammogram process, as well as the types of mammograms available, click here.

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned that you may have an increased risk for breast cancer, or call the Center for Breast Care’s Screening and Prevention Program at 301-418-6611.