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December 4, 2017

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Available Online to Public

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Tool Provides Consumers with Assessment of Five-Year, Lifetime Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

When the ThedaCare Breast Cancer team held a free breast cancer screening clinic one Saturday morning, the turnout unfortunately wasn’t as high as they hoped. “We wondered why people weren’t taking advantage of it, because it was a free clinic,” said Bobbi McGivern, genetic counselor. “Then we realized we needed to change the approach and try to reach more people in a different way.”

The new online Breast Cancer Risk Assessment tool allows consumers to assess their risk on their own time and at their own location. The tool, available to anyone, helps meet the Breast Cancer team’s mission of the identifying high-risk patients and offering increased screening and interventions, McGivern said.

“This is so much more convenient – people can complete the risk tool from their homes, or when they’re on the phone looking at Facebook,” she said. “They can get the information when they want it.”

The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment poses a series of concise health-related questions, assessing lifestyle risk factors such as postmenopausal BMI (weight), smoking, alcohol habits and exercise; hereditary risk factors such as Ashkenazi Jewish descent, breast cancer in the immediate family, and the presence of the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations; and personal history such as age and reproductive history.

Patient data is protected by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations and consumers will receive legal and privacy information before they submit their information, McGivern said.

In 2009, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published new recommendations suggesting women should start mammography screening at age 50 instead of age 40, it caused some confusion among patients, McGivern said.

“What many people missed from that report is those recommendations are only for low-risk patients,” McGivern said. “You need to know what your risk is.”

The Risk Assessment plays a key role in identifying those high-risk patients and encouraging them to begin screening and intervention earlier. Physician recommendations to those patients might include 3D-mammography, breast MRI screening or chemoprevention, such as Tamoxifen therapy. 

The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment is available at and through ThedaCare’s Facebook page.

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 32 clinics in nine counties and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.  For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.