PATHS: Prevention, Assessment and Tailored Health Screening

Genetic testing and cancer risk have been in the news a lot. You may have read about genes that put a person at a higher risk for certain cancers. You may wonder if this is something you should know more about.


Most breast cancers are not known to be caused by genetic mutations. However, some patterns of breast cancer in a family may indicate that a woman is at a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.


The PATHS (Prevention, Assessment and Tailored Health Screening) program at the UW Breast Center was established to identify, educate and provide screening for women who are at an elevated risk of breast cancer.


To do this, we have put together a team of professionals who are experts in this area of breast care. PATHS program providers will evaluate your unique situation, discuss your concerns and make recommendations for further testing if indicated. They also will discuss screening plan options and risk reduction, and plan your follow-up based on your personal goals.


Who should be seen in the PATHS clinic?

  • Patients with known gene mutations that put them at a higher risk of breast cancer, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Rapid developments in cancer genetics make it difficult to list all of the possibilities here.
  • Patients who have an immediate family member with a high-risk gene mutation and who have not had genetic testing
  • Women who have had radiation therapy to their chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years
  • Women who have had biopsy findings of atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH) or Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • Women with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • Women with a close relative diagnosed with any of the following:
    • Breast cancer under age 50
    • Breast and ovarian cancer
    • Male breast cancer
    • Cancer in both breasts

Why is risk assessment important?


Knowing and understanding your risk can help you make good decisions about breast cancer screening and prevention. Early detection of cancer is very important to successful treatment, and some women should be screened earlier or more intensely than others based on their personal risk. Certain medications and healthy habits may decrease your risk of developing breast cancer.

Who are the providers in the PATHS clinic?


The clinic has genetic counselors, a nurse practitioner, breast surgeons, a medical oncologist and a gynecological oncologist who specialize in caring for women who are at a high risk of breast cancer.


Are there opportunities to participate in medical research?


UW Breast Center patients may be offered opportunities to participate in clinical trials to develop evidence-based diagnostic and treatment options.


Who can refer a patient to the PATHS clinic?


Patients can be referred to the PATHS Clinic by breast care providers, primary care providers, oncologists, geneticists or themselves. After requesting an appointment in the PATHS Clinic, you will receive introductory information and some forms to complete. The information you provide on the forms helps make the most of your PATHS Clinic experience. To learn more, or to request an appointment, call the UW Hospital and Clinics Breast Center at (608) 266-6400.