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New breast cancer 'calculator' could help GPs predict risk to women

It has been described as a potential 'game changer'

Sarah Young
Tuesday 15 January 2019 14:50 GMT
Idris Elba supports Stella McCartney breast cancer awareness campaign

A new breast cancer calculator could soon be available in GP surgeries to help people find out their risk of getting the disease.

According to a study by Cancer Research UK, the method can assess a person’s risk of developing breast cancer on the basis of both genetic and lifestyle data.

By combining information on family history and genetics with other factors such as weight, age at menopause, alcohol consumption and use of hormone replacement therapy, the scientists hope to offer a reliable prediction.

The calculator, which is currently being tested by GPs, practice nurses and genetic counsellors, also takes into account 300 different genetic indicators for breast cancer, including BRCA1 and BRCA2, which give women a 50 per cent chance of developing the disease.

“This is the first time that anyone has combined so many elements into one breast cancer prediction tool,” said Prof Antonis Antoniou, the lead author of the research at the University of Cambridge.

“It could be a game changer for breast cancer because now we can identify large numbers of women with different levels of risk – not just women who are at high risk.”

It is hoped that the method will also allow doctors to tailor the care they provide depending on a specific individuals level of risk.

“For example, some women may need additional appointments with their doctor to discuss screening or prevention options and others may just need advice on their lifestyle and diet,” Antoniou added.

“We hope this means more people can be diagnosed early and survive their disease for longer, but more research and trials are needed before we will fully understand how this could be used.”

Currently, around 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and, while the vast majority of these cases are in women (54,800), men are also at risk.

For this reason, it's vital that both men and women self-check regularly.

Women are advised to check their breasts each month for signs of breast cancer which can include a lump, a change in breast size or shape, a rash or skin sores, nipple discharge, skin indentation, constant pain or a change in skin texture.

Similarly, swelling around the armpit or collarbone could be an indicator, as can a growing vein or inverted nipple.

Signs of breast cancer in men can include a lump, inverted nipple, discharge, a sore or rash, swollen skin and small bumps in the armpit.

If you notice any symptoms of breast cancer, the NHS advises that you see your GP as soon as possible.

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