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HALO Breast Pap Test is another tool doctor uses for assessing risk of breast cancer in young women 18 to 50.

October 21, 2009|By Joyce Rudolph

A Burbank surgeon claims 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of it. In response, Dr. Deanna Attai said she uses a test to help her evaluate younger women’s risk of developing the disease.

Women 50 and older have the mammogram to help in early detection of breast cancer, but it isn’t part of the annual exams for younger women, unless they or family members have had a history of the disease.

In the last two years, Attai, a board-certified surgeon with the Center for Breast Care, has been using the HALO Breast Pap Test for assessing the risk of breast cancer in women ages 18 to 50.

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It’s the only FDA-cleared risk screening test for nonhereditary breast cancer, Attai said, and can detect abnormal cells years before a larger, potentially cancerous lesion might develop.

“We feel there’s this test available that is noninvasive, not painful, only takes minutes and can provide valuable risk assessment information, why wouldn’t you want to have this test,” she said. It can be done in the doctor’s office during a lunch hour, she added.

There is a misconception that only those with a family history can develop breast cancer, but everyone is at risk, including men, she said.

“So we are trying to figure out which out of the group of young women need more extensive evaluation than just once-a-month self-breast examinations and once a year clinical breast examinations by a physician or health-care provider,” she said.

The HALO test is not a replacement for a mammogram for women in their 40s and 50s, she said.

“It’s just another tool in my toolbox to help with risk assessment evaluation,” Attai said.

The HALO machine extracts fluid from the breasts, Attai said. The fluid is then sent to a lab, and if it doesn’t have any abnormal cells in it, she continues self-breast exams each month and returns in a year for her next HALO test.

But if there is an abnormality, that might indicate that she is at a higher risk for eventually developing breast cancer, Attai said.

“It doesn’t mean she has it or will ever get it, but this says let’s take a step back and let’s look more closely at family history and at lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise,” she said.

Other options available if the test comes back abnormal is a mammogram, even though it’s not recommended until age 40, or an MRI, she said.

Maggie Mollett, 29, of Glendale, had the test last week.

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