Frequently Asked Questions
What is Athena?
The Athena Breast Health Network serves more than 150,000 women receiving breast care at all five University of California medical centers and their affiliates. Athena brings together women, their doctors, specialists and researchers in pursuit of a common goal – better breast health for every woman.
How can I join Athena and what is involved?
- Come to a UC medical center to join Athena.
- Fill out a health questionnaire.
- Get a risk report based on your personal information.
- Develop a personalized plan with your provider.
What should I know about breast cancer risk?
Family or Personal History of Cancer or Benign Breast Disease
History of breast or ovarian cancer: Women with a first degree or second degree relative who has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, especially if that family member was diagnosed at a young age. Similarly, women with a personal history of ovarian cancer may be at increased breast cancer risk.
BRCA1 and BRCA2: A small portion of breast cancer cases (5-10%) are thought to result directly from inherited genetic mutations. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are considered the most common cause of heredity breast cancer. For some people with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, the risk of developing breast cancer may be as high as 80%. Breast cancers linked with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are more likely to occur in younger women and are more likely to affect both breasts. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are also linked with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. There are other less common genes like P53, PTEN, and other genes that are also associated with an increased risk for breast cancer and other cancers.
History of breast biopsy: A higher number of breast biopsies is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, although the biopsies themselves are not thought to be causally related to an increased breast cancer risk. Athena uses the number of breast biopsies a woman has gone through, along with a number of other factors, to help estimate her risk of developing breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, which uses the same Gail Model employed in the Athena risk assessment process, uses the total number of breast biopsies to calculate a woman’s risk.
History of benign breast disease: Women diagnosed with certain benign breast conditions, like atypical ductal hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in-situ, and others, may be at an increased risk of breast cancer.
Link to the full document, Breast Cancer Risk Factors (PDF) to continue reading about breast cancer risk factors, myths and potential interventions.
What does this mean for my care?
- This personalized risk assessment uses the latest in technology to help us learn about your risk for breast cancer. You can learn how to lower your risk for breast cancer and together we can guide your breast health plan.
- If you are identified as being at elevated risk for breast cancer, you will be referred to appropriate resources, such as risk-reduction programs and/or genetic counseling.
- If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you will be offered the very latest options in medical care and access to promising new approaches through clinical trials.