Doctor Couple Develops An Online Risk Calculator For Breast Cancer

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A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every four minutes. It’s the most common form of cancer among women all over the world, replacing cervical cancer.

Amid ongoing research in different countries, a doctor couple in Kerala has developed a tool that can assess the risk of developing breast cancer in a woman’s lifetime, reported The Indian Express.

On answering seven questions, the risk calculator throws up a score that will help women determine the type and frequency of medical screening they need so that they can get diagnosed at the right time.

The sooner breast cancer is detected, better the chances of survival.

Dr Regi Jose, professor of community medicine at Sree Gokulam Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram, and husband Dr Paul Augustine, head of surgical oncology at Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), Thiruvananthapuram, have devised the risk calculator following extensive study on usefulness of Gail model in estimating risk for development of breast cancer among women of Kerala.

The seven parameters taken into account to create a score are — current age, age at first occurrence of menstruation, age at first live birth, number of live births, history of breast feeding, number of first-degree relatives with breast cancer and total number of breast biopsies.

A higher score suggests the woman must undergo regular screening and check-ups. A low score does not necessarily guarantee an absence of risk, Dr Jose points out, regular screening is essential.

The study was a part of Dr Jose’s thesis, conducted between June 2003 and March 2005 at the RCC and corporation areas of Thiruvananthapuram. The sample size of 1580 included women diagnosed with breast cancer as well as those without a history of it.

“The sensitivity of the Gail model among women here was found to be only 14.2 per cent and so it may not be useful here. So to understand the risk among women here and help develop a score, I did statistical modelling and created a logistic regression equation. With the help of seven variables, the calculator we devised can do a risk prediction ranging between 0 and 1,” said Dr Jose, who is also medical director of Snehita, an NGO that works on early detection of breast cancer among women.

It was Snehita’s technical team that converted the doctors’ formula into an online calculator that can be accessed easily on its website (snehita.in/risk).

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