Breast Cancer Risk Perception

Deanna J. Attai, MD, surgeon, president, Center For Breast Care, Burbank, CA, discusses patients' perception of breast cancer risk.

Deanna J. Attai, MD, surgeon, president, Center For Breast Care, Burbank, CA, discusses patients' perception of breast cancer risk.

As there is a plethora of information about breast cancer awareness and early detection, Attai says, many women do not have a good sense of their true risk. A study presented at the 2013 Breast Cancer Symposium showed that in over 9,000 women, 40-45% either underestimated or overestimated their risk by at least 10%.

If a patient is at high risk but believes that she is at lower risk, Attai says, she may be less likely to see the need to take tamoxifen for risk reduction or may not see the need for lifestyle changes. If a patient is at low risk for breast cancer, she may believe she needs prophylactic mastectomies for no good medical reason.

Clinical Pearls

It is important for all of a patient's physicians to give them an idea of what is truly their risk.

  • Many women do not have a good sense of their true risk of breast cancer
  • In over 9,000 women, 40-45% either underestimated or overestimated their risk by at least 10%