Being a woman puts you at risk for breast cancer. Each year your risk increases. The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool can be used to help determine your current risk, no matter what your age.
Developed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) Biostatistics Center, this tool uses statistical methods that had been applied to data from the Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project, a mammography screening project conducted in the 1970s.
The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool helps you calculate your chances of developing breast cancer over the next 5 years, up until the age of 90, based on answers to several questions about known breast cancer risks. By pasting the address of the National Cancer Instituteís web site, www.bcra.nci.nih.gov/brc, into your Internet browser, you can access the The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool.
To use the tool, you answer a series of questions about your most significant likely risk factors (current age, any previous diagnosis of DCIA/LCIS, age when menstruation began, age at birth of first child, number of close relatives diagnosed with cancer, whether you have any suspicious symptoms requiring a biopsy, whether the biopsy showed atypical cells).
The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment tool can be used to help determine the risk of developing cancer over the next 5 years. The toolís most common application is to assist a womanís physician in determining whether prophylactic measures such as tamoxifen are necessary. If you elect to use the tool independently, it is important that you discuss any high-risk results with your physician.
It is important to understand that the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool is not a definitive gauge. If the Tool indicates you are at low risk, this does not mean you should stop performing monthly breast exams or having annual mammograms if you are over age 40.
The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool has some limitations. For example the tool will generally underestimate the risk in women with strong family histories of breast cancer. Also, there are many other risk factors (e.g.: use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, high-fat diet, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity, age at menopause, dense breast tissue on mammogram and environmental factors) that the tool does not assess.
Remember that the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool is a statistical tool only, and lacks the ability to assess each individualís complete profile of risk factors.