Fibrocystic Breast Condition Fibrocystic Changes

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

How is the risk of breast cancer in fibrocystic breast condition patients calculated?

Assessing the statistical risk for any individual woman requires a careful assessment of all her relevant health issues. The best estimates of cancer risk relate specifically to the microscopic tissue types of fibrocystic condition. Other factors such as family history and the presence of an inherited gene that increases the risk of breast cancer (BRCA 1 and 2 genes) are also taken into account. However, unless a woman with fibrocystic breast condition has a breast biopsy; it is not possible to calculate her specific risk of developing breast cancer.

Only 5% of women with fibrocystic breast condition have the type of cellular changes, namely cellular hyperplasia, which represents a risk factor for breast cancer. When compared to a "normal population" of women, these patients have a two to six fold increased risk of breast cancer. The exact risk depends on the degree of the hyperplasia and whether atypical-appearing cells are also present.

It is critical for the patient with fibrocystic breast condition to understand that this figure represents her total risk accumulated over a lifetime. This means that her actual increased risk of breast cancer in any given year is rather low.

Breast cancer risk assessment can also be performed using a system known as the Gail Breast Risk Assessment tool. This system takes into account the following factors when calculating an individual woman's risk: age (the model is valid only for women aged >35 years), race, age at menarche (the beginning of menstruation), age at first live birth, number of first-degree relatives with breast cancer, number of previous breast biopsies, and the presence of atypical hyperplasia on any previous breast biopsy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/2/2015

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