Breast cancer risk assessment is evolving as a new standard of care for breast care patients, according to a webinar hosted by the Medical Technology Management Institute (MTMI) in conjunction with Volpara Health. Leigh Loughran, Volpara Risk Assessment Program Manager, presented the webinar entitled “The Role of Mammography Technologists in Cancer Risk Assessment” and shared some key takeaways from her previous experience as a technologist and Personalized Medicine Program Director at Rome Health in Rome, NY. Read on to learn about some of the big questions Leigh tackled during the presentation.
Q: When should patients first receive a breast cancer risk assessment?
A: Medical societies including the American College of Radiology (ACR), the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), and the American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBrS) recommend that women complete a breast cancer risk assessment between ages 25 and 30.1,2,3 However, many patients are only being seen at breast screening facilities for the first time at age 40 or later. At that point, while age 40 is later than recommended, their risk should be assessed as part of their breast cancer screening so that their care management plan can be personalized and future generations in their family can benefit from access to that information as well.
Q: What is the technologist’s role in risk assessment?
A: Technologists are the gateway to personalized patient care. It is their job to collect accurate information from patients regarding their personal and family health histories so that the patients can be directed to screening plans and interventions based on their personal risk. And this is no easy task – the difference between a patient qualifying or not qualifying for supplemental screening or genetic testing could be as small as obtaining an accurate age of menarche, or the age at which a relative was diagnosed with cancer.
Q: What factors affect a patient’s breast cancer risk?
A: There are four key pillars to breast cancer risk assessment – breast density, family history, benign diagnosis, and personal health (including Ob/Gyn factors). High breast density is a significant risk factor that affects a huge number of women, while family history and benign diagnosis affect a smaller number of women but can present a very high risk. Ob/Gyn factors are generally associated with a lower level of risk, though they are an important piece of the puzzle especially in conjunction with the other pillars.
Q: What is the best risk model to use for risk assessment?
A: There are many risk models available, and each is associated with a different method to personalize patient care – the Tyrer-Cuzick (TC) model is often used to assess a patient’s qualifications for supplemental screening, while NCCN and BRCAPRO are useful in determining whether a patient should receive genetic testing. It is especially useful to use the TC and NCCN models together. While TC is a female-focused model that will accurately assess the risk of patients with personal or family histories of breast or ovarian cancer, the NCCN model also accounts for those with histories of pancreatic or prostate cancer.
Q: What are the benefits of educating women on breast cancer risk?
A: Only 60% of women that are eligible for breast mammography actually receive screening each year. It has been shown that there is a 15% increase in screening attendance when women know their risk and understand its impact on their health and recommended care.
To learn more about breast cancer risk assessment, watch the full webinar recording below, and to learn how Volpara Health can help your facility kickstart your own risk assessment program, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.