Are you at risk of breast cancer? What age should you get your first screening? How often should you get examined?
There’s now an easy, free-of-cost online calculator that could help answer all these questions. A doctor couple from Kerala, along with their team, has devised the tool that could predict a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer in her lifetime by asking seven simple questions.
Behind the calculator is Dr Regi Jose, Professor of Community Medicine, Sree Gokulam Medical College and Medical Director, Snehita Women's Health Foundation, and her technical team at Snehita.
She tells FIT, “The ‘Snehita Breast Cancer Risk Calculator’ gives the lifetime probability of having breast cancer if you do not undergo any screening method.”
“The objective is to identify who is at more risk and needs frequent consultation.”Dr Regi Jose
Her husband, Dr Paul Augustine, Head Division of Surgical Oncology, Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, adds that the risk calculator is convenient, free of cost, takes less than a minute to use, and uses a mathematical model to predict if a woman is at normal, moderate or high risk of breast cancer.
Accordingly, it gives suggestions and recommendations on what needs to be done to detect it early. If a cancer is detected at an early stage, the cure is almost over 90%, he tells.
The Seven Questions You Need to Answer
This tool uses the A-J Model - a mathematical tool developed to calculate a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
Once you have entered your name and place, the calculator takes you to a short survey asking the following questions:
- What is your age?
- What was the age at which you got your first menstrual period?
- How many children have you given birth to?
- What was your age when delivering your first child?
- Have you breastfed for more than 2 years in total?
- How many breast biopsies have you had?
- How many of your first-degree relatives (mother, sisters, daughters) have had breast cancer?
Based on the assessment, the calculator will give you a score between 0-1 and predict if you are at high, moderate or low risk.
The tool comes with a note of caution: Please note that the risks calculated and advice given here are only indicative and you should always consult a physician for medical diagnosis and decision making.
The doctors give some basic recommendations:
- For women above 30 years of age: Yearly breast examination if at normal risk, every six months if at high risk
- Mammogram/ultrasound based on examination
- Baseline mammogram at 50 years of age
- Regular follow-up check-ups
A Woman Is Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Every Four Minutes in India
In India, breast cancer today is the most common cancer among women. Dr Paul Augustine says,
“In the west, the average age is around 62 years for breast cancer, whereas in India, it is around 49 years. It’s more than a decade earlier that we see breast cancer in Indian women.”Dr Paul Augustine
Breast awareness is key to early diagnosis, the doctors say. Self-examination should be done after receiving some training by a trained doctor or volunteer during a clinical breast examination. “A trained person can detect a lump which is around 1 cm in size. If you detect it this early, the cure rate is over 90%. On the other hand, when women or untrained people try to find the lumps, it is already around 2.5 cm.”
“We are trying to make people aware. Once they look at the calculator, they will know what is to be done and will remain motivated to come for clinical breast examination at least once a year,” Dr Augustine says.