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Breast Cancer High-Risk Program

As part of our comprehensive cancer care, UC San Diego Health offers comprehensive screening services for women who may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. This may be based on (but is not limited to) any of these factors:

  • Multiple family members with breast cancer or ovarian cancer 
  • Carrying a genetic mutation (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2) that increases breast cancer risk, or have a first-degree family member with a BRCA mutation
  • Family member with breast or ovarian cancer and of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • Multiple breast biopsies
  • Multiple benign masses or growths in breasts
  • Diagnosis of atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or lobular neoplasia

This approach is relatively new, but holds great promise in both prevention and in early diagnosis, at a stage when cancer is more treatable.

Breast Cancer Screening Services

Patients can be referred by a physician or a genetic counselor, or can contact our program directly. After we thoroughly review your medical records, you will have a comprehensive consultation with our nurse practitioner. Your case will then be reviewed by your care team, which may include surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, certified genetic counselors, and other providers from the Comprehensive Breast Health Center and Family Cancer Genetics Program. Our team will create an individualized plan focusing on prevention, early detection and (if necessary) treatment.

Recommendations may include:

  • Frequent surveillance screenings using our advanced breast health imaging technologies, including 3-D capable mammography, ultrasound, molecular breast imaging and MRI
  • Referrals to specialties including gynecology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, or occupational therapy
  • Genetic testing to determine whether you have a genetic mutation associated with breast cancer
  • Risk-reducing medications such as tamoxifen
  • Surgical intervention, which could include breast-conservation surgery, prophylactic or preventive mastectomy, or reconstruction

Testing for Hereditary Breast Cancer

Up to 10 percent of all breast cancers are caused by genetic changes or mutations that can be inherited. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are understood to be responsible for most cases of inherited breast cancer.

Our Family Cancer Genetics Program offers genetic testing to identify BRCA and other mutations. Testing can be completed with a simple blood or oral swab test. The benefits of knowing you have a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer include the ability to:

  • Develop a personalized screening and prevention plan specific to the genetic mutation and your risk factors based on National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines
  • Discuss the use of risk-reducing medications
  • Discuss the risks and benefits of surgical interventions including preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy
  • Inform your first-degree family members to get tested

Appointments & Referrals


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Personalized Cancer Care

UC San Diego Health now uses genetic testing to analyze tumors and tailor cancer treatments to individual patients. See Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy.