A regular mammogram isn’t enough to battle breast cancer anymore.
Researchers have found that a third of breast cancer cases may have roots in issues like obesity, alcohol use and inactivity.
Hospitals are parlaying that fact into new, personalized assessments that emphasize prevention and healthier life choices, along with other factors that increase or decrease risk. They’re using the results to guide follow-up and recommendations tailored to each woman.
These efforts are part of a wider trend toward personalized medicine. Such programs are too new to show impact on cancer diagnoses. But breast cancer experts say they are low-cost, do no harm and encourage women to live healthier lives. They also give women much-needed prevention guidance beyond their annual reminder to get a mammogram.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston offers a program called B-Prep—for Breast Cancer Personalized Risk Assessment, Education and Prevention—to women who visit for breast complaints or abnormal tests.
As part of B-Prep, women fill out a survey to evaluate lifestyle, family history and other risk factors and receive a personalized evaluation of their risk with exercise and diet recommendations, free educational sessions and follow-up recommendations.
“We are trying to personalize screening recommendations and risk reduction strategies, not a one-size-fits all approach,” says [breast surgeon] Melissa Pilewskie.
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