BOSTON (CBS) – Many women are at increased risk for breast cancer, but don’t know what to do about it. Now a local program is helping identify women at risk, then give ongoing support and counseling to help reduce it.
Mil Pierce of Belmont is one of those women at risk; she has a strong family history of breast cancer.
“My mom, my grandmother, my great aunt, generation after generation has had breast cancer,” she said.
The 55-year old had genetic testing, but it was negative. So Mil went searching for answers to protect herself and her two teenage daughters.
“I thought it would be really important to figure out an approach that was soup to nuts,” she explained. “I wanted to throw the kitchen sink at trying to prevent this.”
Mil found what she was looking for at the B PREP program at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, developed by breast surgeon Tari King.
“Our goals are to help women really understand their risk, help them understand their options for reducing that risk, things that women can take charge of themselves,” Dr. King said.
Women like Mil are given a customized intake survey to calculate their risk. If elevated, they stay in the program, if not they leave with some reassurance. So far, two-thirds of the women screened in the program have been flagged.
In addition to family history, there are lifestyle factors that play a role in breast cancer risk, like being overweight, not exercising regularly, and drinking more than one alcoholic beverage a day. B PREP provides nutritional support, weight management counseling, stress reduction techniques and opportunities to enroll in clinical trials.
“We are conducting a study right now that is looking at how exercise affects the breast in a way that could actually prevent breast cancer,” said Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Mil qualified for this study, even though she is pretty active. “At the gym, twice a week, and I’m out walking pretty vigorously 5-6 times a week with my dog.”
Despite her healthy habits, two years ago Mil was diagnosed with a precancerous lesion. Not cancer, but a close call.
“I did everything I could all by myself and it didn’t work,” she stated. Now she is hoping the B PREP program will help her avoid the same fate as other women in her family.
You don’t have to be a patient at Brigham and Women’s to participate in the B PREP program. If you have concerns about your risk of breast cancer, or want to learn more about the program, visit their website.