Leading the Way in Breast and GYN Cancer Awareness

Taking a holistic, comprehensive approach to breast and gynecologic care, Hoag Women’s Health Institute is focused on successful prevention and state-of-the-art treatments at every stage of a woman’s life.

Part of that care comes from providing answers to the most pressing questions women have about their health.

I’ve heard of 3D mammography and breast ultrasound. How do I know if I need more than a standard mammogram?

Mammograms are the gold standard for breast cancer early detection, but women with dense breast tissue and women with higher than average risk of developing breast cancer (due to family history, genetic predisposition, or other factors) may need more. Breast Tomosynthesis (also known as 3D mammography), MRI and ultrasound can be useful complements to standard mammograms for these women,” said January Lopez, M.D., director of Breast Imaging at Hoag Breast Centers. “A thorough breast health history, family history, an assessment of breast density and, in some cases, genetic testing can help determine what is right for you.”

How do I know if I'm eligible for genetic screening for BRCA and other gene mutations?

“There are a number of factors contributing to a woman’s breast cancer risk, including age, race, family history, previous breast biopsies, obstetric and menstrual history, and use of hormone replacement therapy,” said breast surgical oncologist Sadia Khan, D.O., advisor to Hoag Breast Care Program.

Only about 5-10 percent of all breast and ovarian cancer cases are related to genetic mutations such as BRCA, ATM, CHEK2 and PALB2. For women with a strong family history of breast cancer (under the age of 50), ovarian cancer at any age, and other cancer types, meeting with a genetic counselor can help determine whether genetic testing is appropriate for you. Your physician will usually refer you to a genetic counselor after taking a detailed family history. A genetic counselor will use a detailed family tree along with genetic testing, when appropriate, to determine if you have a hereditary mutation for increased risk of breast or other cancers.

I work out and eat well, but I'm still slightly overweight. Am I at increased risk of cancer?

“Lifestyle modifications can go a long way toward preventing cancer risk. Smoking cessation, exercise and dietary changes can lower lifetime cancer risk significantly,” said gynecologic oncologist Kristina Mori, M.D. “When it comes to weight, an important indicator is body mass index, or BMI. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight by their height. Distribution of body fat – whether more fat is carried around the hips or the abdomen – can also tell us if a person is at increased risk. If you have questions about how lifestyle modifications can decrease your risk for developing cancer, talk to your doctor.”

What does the HPV vaccine protect against?

“The human papilloma virus (HPV) accounts for more than 90 percent of all cervical cancer cases. When given prior to the consent of sexual activity, the vaccine covers the most common and aggressive strains of the virus,” said gynecologic oncologist Kristina Mori, M.D. “That is why we go out to the community to educate parents and pediatricians about the HPV vaccine and what it means to the future of kids’ health.”