What Is a Breast Cancer Risk Calculator?

Woman feeling for breast cancer (MODEL)

Women in the US have a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and one of the keys to beating breast cancer is early screening and diagnosis. Actress Olivia Munn recently made headlines and brought this vital reminder to light after her own breast cancer wake-up call.  Despite a “normal” mammogram result, Munn and her physician suspected she may be predisposed to other risk factors. They used a breast cancer risk calculator, which led to eye-opening and lifesaving results!

What is a breast cancer risk calculator, and what other risk assessment tools and practices should you be aware of? We’re sharing vital information below to empower you to take charge of your breast health.

Understanding the Importance of Breast Cancer Screening Tools

Breast cancer risk assessment tools (BCRATs) help women understand their personal risk factors and take appropriate actions. A breast cancer risk calculator, also referred to as the Gail model, collects the following criteria to help determine your likelihood of developing the disease within the next five years and throughout your lifetime:

  • Age and ethnicity
  • Reproductive history
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Previous breast biopsies

While BCRATs are helpful baseline tools, they don’t predict with 100% certainty that you will get breast cancer. Instead, they determine your approximate risk level based on women with similar risk factors and conditions.

Using the Breast Cancer Risk Calculator

The assessment takes less than 5 minutes to complete and gives you a baseline reference for your breast cancer risk level, which you can explore further with your provider. It’s important to note that the tool was developed based on criteria for non-Hispanic white women, so it may not provide accurate results for all ethnicities. Results are also limited for women with BRCA gene mutations.

A five-year risk assessment score of 3% translates into a 3% risk of developing cancer over the next five years, whereas a lifetime risk score of 6% means your estimated lifetime risk of developing cancer is 7%. The average breast calculator risk score is 12%, and a score greater than 20% is considered high.

Because the breast cancer index test was designed to be used and interpreted by healthcare professionals, we suggest sharing your results with your provider to make the most informed decisions and appropriate next steps for your care.

Dr. Memsic’s Breast Cancer Assessment Insights

In a recent Well + Good article referencing Oliva Munn’s breast cancer scare, Dr. Leslie Memsic discusses how patients can utilize and benefit from at-home assessment tools like the breast cancer risk calculator for early intervention and treatment. Her key insights include:

  • Viewing at-home risk calculators as the first step in the larger process of being diagnosed by your provider
  • Performing self-exams and scheduling professional exams no later than age 30
  • Having regular mammograms by age 40 (or earlier if you’re at higher risk)
  • Getting your breasts checked regularly—there’s never a wrong time to get checked for cancer!

You can read the complete Well + Good article quoting Dr. Memsic here.

Breast Cancer Screening Tips & Takeaways

Remember, early detection through regular screening is critical to positive breast cancer outcomes. Dr. Memsic and our entire Bedford Breast Center team encourage you to familiarize yourself with these options:

  • Risk assessments and breast self-checks (initial at-home screenings)
  • Annual clinical breast exams (checking for lumps and irregularities)
  • 3D mammograms (x-ray image of the breast tissue)
  • Breast ultrasounds (use of sound waves to further investigate lumps)
  • Biopsy (removing a sampling of tissue from the breast or lymph nodes to help determine diagnosis and treatment)
  • BRCA genetic testing (identifies mutations that can signal increased breast cancer risk)

You can find additional details and answers to common breast cancer screening questions in this related blog post.

Schedule Your Breast Exam

Olivia Munn’s story serves as a reminder never to leave your breast health to chance. By utilizing the breast cancer risk calculator and other screening tools, you can take control of your breast health and seek early detection and treatment by our breast care providers. Prioritize your breast health by requesting a consultation with Bedford Breast Center online or by calling us at (310) 278-8590.

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