According to JAMA, a women’s lifetime risk of contracting breast cancer is 1 in 8, and the presence of a particular mutation “in breast cancer susceptibility gene 1 or 2 (BRCA1/2) significantly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.” The Cancer Institute at Stanford has developed an online tool for helping women with this genetic mutation evaluate her risks and benefits for different interventions. It is not intended to replace proper medical care, but instead to “inform discussion between providers and patients about options for reducing cancer risk.”
When talking about cancer or any other life-threatening medical condition, numbers about risk, results, etc. can begin to blur for any patient. Having a tool like this to provide a clear visualization can help any woman and her doctor think through medical decisions more carefully. The website does note that the calculations this tool is based on ” calculations result from a computer simulation model, not a clinical trial.” Long-term validation studies of this tool are needed to confirm its accuracy.
But a woman facing important decisions about breast cancer risk and prevention needs the best information available now, and this tool appears to be a good way to help visualize the risks and benefits of treatment options and timing, in consultation with a physician. And being online, rather than in print, it is free and immediately available. Kudos to Standford for developing this important resource!