High Risk Breast Cancer Care

The Essentia Health High-Risk Breast Cancer Program focuses on helping patients understand their risk for developing breast cancer. After a thorough history, examination and education session, patients and the Breast Health Program Nurse Practitioner partner together to form a personalized plan of care.

Medical Insight: High-Risk Breast Cancer Program – Essentia Health Video Transcript

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The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Medical Insight. Image, A man in a white coat sits at a desk and points to something on an x-ray on a monitor.

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TRACY BRIGGS: As a radiologist at Essentia Health, Dr. Ben Smith looks at images for potential breast cancers in his patients. BEN SMITH: One in eight women in a lifetime is diagnosed with breast cancer. We want to pay attention to this because it is a common problem.

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Dr. Ben Smith, Essentia health Radiologist

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It's also a problem that we're really good at treating. When

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Translucent image of a woman's upper body showing ribs and internal tissues.

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it comes to breast cancer, if we can identify breast cancer is confined to the breast, that means not spread to the lymph nodes or anywhere else in the body, the five-year survival is 99%.

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Bright orange light emanating from breasts. Tracy Briggs, Essentia Health Medical Insight Host

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TRACY BRIGGS: Essentia Health now offers a high-risk breast cancer program that focuses on helping patients understand their risk for cancer.

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Professionals operate various pieces of specialized machinery for breast cancer imaging and detection.

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Women who have an increased risk of developing breast cancer are then partnered with a breast health program professional to form a personalized plan of care.

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BEN SMITH: The goal is twofold. So we want to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. But we also want to detect breast cancer early.

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TRACY BRIGGS: The initial assessment includes reviewing risk factors, performing a clinical breast exam, imaging, genetic counseling, if necessary, and patient education. Dr. Smith says it's all about being proactive.

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BEN SMITH: Just because you meet with a medical oncologist doesn't mean you have cancer, doesn't mean you'll develop cancer. We're just trying to reduce that risk as much as we can.

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TRACY BRIGGS: While this program is new, all indications show it's already making a difference.

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BEN SMITH: I can tell you we certainly have detected more cancers through this program. You know, anecdotally, we are finding cancers early. Nowadays, we're pretty fortunate in that we find lots of breast cancers in the millimeter ranges. So, very, very small.

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TRACY BRIGGS: To find out if you or your loved one should be evaluated in the high-risk breast cancer program, visit essentiahealth.org or visit your health care provider. With this Essentia Health Medical Insight, I'm Tracy Briggs.

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The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Medical Insight.

Who should be evaluated in the High-Risk Breast Cancer Program?

  • Women who have:
    • Several close relatives on the same side of the family with breast cancer
    • A mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer at age 50 or less
    • Two first degree relatives (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer at any age
    • A close male relative with breast cancer at any age
  • If you or a close family member have an abnormal gene that increases the risk of breast cancer
  • If you have had a breast biopsy with abnormal cells such as, atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • If you have had radiation treatments to the chest area under the age of 30 for Hodgkin's Disease or lymphoma
  • Women who took DES (diethylstilbestrol) in the 1940's to 1960's to prevent miscarriage

What happens during my visit? 

The initial assessment is done in a one-hour appointment with the Breast Health Program Nurse Practitioner. During that appointment, the following takes place:

  • Risk factors are reviewed and breast cancer risk is calculated using tools that predict the 5-year, 10-year and lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
  • A clinical breast exam is performed and breast self-awareness measures are reviewed
  • Imaging is completed as indicated
  • Genetic counseling, breast surgeon or gynecologist evaluations may be recommended and a referral can be made
  • Patient education about breast cancer risk factors, protective factors, early detection, prevention and risk reduction.
  • A mutually agreed upon plan of care is developed

Medical Insight: High Risk Breast Cancer Program Video Transcript

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SPEAKER: Welcome to Medical Insight, a weekly health care feature brought to you by the experts at Essentia Health.

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The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Here with you. Medical Insight.

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Here's your host, Maureen Talarico.

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Text, Maureen Talarico, Host.

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MAUREEN TALARICO: Today, we talk to nurse practitioner and breast health expert Pam Lincoln about Essentia's High Risk Breast Cancer Program.

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Text, Pam Lincoln, C N P, Breast Health Expert. Pam sits speaking to the camera, wearing a white lab coat.

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PAM LINCOLN: It's a program we develop to identify women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer. Once we identify women who are at high risk we work with them to do everything we can to decrease the risk and also if they are going to develop breast cancer to find it as early as possible when it is more easily treated and highly curable.

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Pam inaudibly speaks to a patient whose face is not shown.

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The first thing we do is just get a lot of history, and then we take all that information and enter it into tools that we have online that actually predict the risk of developing breast cancer.

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Pam sits with a patient in front of a computer monitor, while inaudibly speaking to her.

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And if the risk comes out that your lifetime risk is about 20% or over, that's considered high risk. MAUREEN TALARICO: Pam says the average American woman has a 12% chance of developing breast cancer. If someone is found to be at high-risk, then a personalized plan is created to reduce risk and detect breast cancer earlier through screening. She will also connect patients to other Essentia experts, such as genetic counselors, breast surgeons, and gynecologists if needed.

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Pam sits with a patient in front of an open pamphlet on a table, inaudibly speaking to her.

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We also do a complete breast exam, a review breast self-awareness measures with women so that they know what to look for that would indicate something is going on and do a mammogram if their mammograms do. PAM LINCOLN: If you think you may be at high risk for developing breast cancer, call Essentia's Breast Health Center. No referral is needed, and everyone is welcome. For Medical Insight, I'm Maureen Talarico.

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Text, Medical Insight. 2 1 8 7 8 6 3 1 0 7. Essentia Health dot org. The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Here with you.

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SPEAKER: To learn more about this topic, call our experts at 786-3107.

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Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

You can control some of your breast cancer risk factors. To lower your risk of developing breast cancer, make healthy lifestyle choices.

  • Keep a healthy weight
    • Women with a BMI (body mass index) lower than 25 are less likely to develop breast cancer than women with a higher BMI.
  • Make exercise part of your routine
    • Regular exercise decreases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 10-25%. Aim for moderate physical activity 20-30 minutes/ day, 4 days/week.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink
    • Don't drink more than one alcoholic drink per day. Women who have 2-3 drinks per day have a 20% higher risk of breast cancer.
  • Limit hormone use for symptoms of menopause
    • Hormone therapy with estrogen and progesterone increases the risk of breast cancer. Higher risk is associated with longer use.
  • Breastfeed if you can
    • Breastfeeding for a year or more has been shown to decrease a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
  • Don’t smoke
    • If you smoke, talk with your primary care provider about options for quitting. Smoking increases breast cancer risk especially in long-term, heavy smokers.

Make An Appointment

Duluth Clinic 1st Street Building
Call 218-786-1019 

32nd Avenue Clinic (Fargo)
Call 701-364-8900, option #5

St. Mary's-Detroit Lakes Clinic
Call 218-844-2347

St. Joseph's Medical Center (Brainerd)
You’ll need a referral for this service.

Ask for a Breast Cancer Risk Assessment.

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