Breast Cancer: How to Know if You’re at Risk?

Woman wearing bandana.
Print icon
By Katherine Del Prato
Family Nurse Practitioner
Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute

Millions of women and men have faced a breast cancer diagnosis. This year alone, 268,600 women and 2,670 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

When that person is a family member or friend, you may wonder what you can do to lower your risk and best protect your health.

Although most people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease, those with a family history may be at higher risk. Participation in a high-risk surveillance program can give you peace of mind, concrete data and a proactive plan focused on preventing and detecting cancer as early as possible.

Here are some of the factors that can determine if you or a loved one have a higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer.

Strong family history of breast cancer, which may include:

  • Immediate relative with a history of breast cancer under the age of 50.
  • Multiple family members with a history of breast or ovarian cancer.
  • Any male relatives with a history of breast cancer.
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.


  • Personal or family history of genetic mutations (such as BRCA 1, BRCA 2, Li-Fraumeni or Cowden syndrome).
  • History of radiation to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30.
  • A breast biopsy revealing atypical cells such as lobular carcinoma in situ or atypical hyperplasia.

By identifying risk factors, breast cancer specialists can offer a comprehensive risk assessment and recommend appropriate screening and preventative measures. For instance, in addition to a yearly screening mammogram, an ultrasound and/or breast MRI may be recommended. Risk-reducing medication and surgical options may also be considered.

An important component of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute breast health services is its risk assessment and surveillance program. People can meet with one of our breast specialists regularly to review risk factors. During a visit, you’ll  have a clinical breast exam, discuss lifestyle strategies and review the personally tailored surveillance program that has been designed for them.

A unique feature of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in Plainville is the option for same-day screening mammogram and ultrasound. Referrals may be made to other on-site services such as genetic counseling, medical oncology (to discuss potential risk-reducing medications, such as tamoxifen) or to plastic surgery (if risk-reducing surgery is being considered).

People working with a high-risk breast specialist along with the most advanced surveillance and diagnostic technology can take a proactive role in their breast health. If you or your health specialist believe that your risk of breast cancer may be higher than average, ask for a referral to meet with a high-risk breast specialist. The best way you can help spread awareness this October is to get your mammogram and encourage your loved ones to do the same.

For more information on the high-risk breast cancer surveillance program, click here.

Katherine Del Prato is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who specializes in high-risk breast cancer surveillance at Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in Plainville. 



What's New


Connecticut’s drug-related deaths up 18 percent in 2019

The numbers tell a sobering story – after a dip in deaths from drug overdoses in 2018, Connecticut recorded 1,200, or 18 percent more, drug-related deaths in 2019, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The one stagnant piece of information in the equation, however, is the fact...

World Lymphedema Day is March 6th

On Friday, March 6th, therapists from Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network will be on hand at several locations throughout the state to provide information about lymphedema services in recognition of World Lymphedema Day.  In preparation for the event, Linda Hodgkins, MS OTR/L CLT-LANA, Clinical Program Manager for HHCRN’s lymphedema services, answers...

11th Healthy Family FunFest set for Feb. 23

Now celebrating its 11th year, Healthy Family FunFest will provide thousands of visitors access to information about healthy living, fitness, health screenings and a wide variety of resources, services, demonstrations, hands-on learning, friendly challenges, and interactive activities. This free event features more than 100 tables showcasing Hartford HealthCare service lines...


Hartford HealthCare to Provide Health Services for UHart Students

Hartford HealthCare and the University of Hartford have announced a partnership for the health system to provide health services to students.  Hartford HealthCare President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Flaks was joined by University President Greg Woodwood and  UHart alum and Hartford HealthCare staff member Latasha Raineault during halftime of...

Dr. Elena Bortan

Movement Disorders Care Comes to Mystic

Much as the design of the new Hartford HealthCare facility at 100 Perkins Farms Drive in Mystic reflects the vibe of coastal community, the location of specialists from the HHC Ayer Neuroscience Institute’s Chase Family Movement Disorders Center to the facility answers a demand for high-quality care and support in...