The ten-question cancer risk calculator that helped actress Olivia Munn discover her breast tumors can be done online – and doctors encourage women over 35 to take it

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • The five-minute test is made up of just ten questions and can be done online
  • Olivia Munn credited the breast cancer risk assessment with ‘saving her life’
  • READ MORE: Why it took Olivia Munn THREE TIMES to get correct diagnosis

An online risk assessment calculator played a vital role in Olivia Munn’s discovery she had breast cancer.

The actress, 43, revealed Wednesday that she was diagnosed with the disease just two months after being given the all-clear from a mammogram and DIY genetic testing, which claimed to detect 90 genes linked to cancer.

It was her doctor’s decision to calculate her breast cancer risk assessment score that ‘saved her life’, according to Munn, because it led to further tests that finally got it right.

The risk test uses a few simple questions and looks at things such as family history of the disease and the age at which the woman had her first child – which can increase the risk of cancer.

The calculator put Munn’s chance of developing breast cancer at 37 percent, which prompted doctors to carry out even closer examinations. 

A FULL LIST OF QUESTIONS IN THE ASSESSMENT TOOL ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE, ALONG WITH A LINK TO THE OFFICIAL TEST

Olivia Munn has revealed she was diagnosed with luminal B breast cancer last year – having undergone four surgeries in the last 10 months. She credited her OBGYN (here) for ‘saving my life’

The above graph shows the changes in breast cancer screenings (black line) since 2017 by month. It also shows a predicted screening rate (yellow dotted line) and the Covid infection rate (blue line) in the US over the same period. Screenings were initially steady but dropped in the first year of the pandemic by as much as 14 percent

Munn was diagnosed with luminal B breast cancer in both breasts at an early stage.

She was then given a double mastectomy to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, when it becomes deadly.

According to the National Cancer Institute, a breast cancer risk assessment tool uses a statistical model to estimate a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer in the next five years as well as over her lifetime, or up to about age 90.

The calculator is made up of questions about the woman’s medical, reproductive and family history.

Typically, it is used by health professionals, but patients can also complete the test online. Women who do this are encouraged to discuss their results with their doctor.

The two most common models are the Gail Model and the Tyrer-Cuzick Risk Assessment Calculator.

The Gail Model calculates the patient’s estimated five-year risk and lifetime risk of getting breast cancer, as well as the average risk for women in the US of the same age and race.

‘Although a woman’s risk may be accurately estimated, these predictions do not allow one to say precisely which woman will develop breast cancer. 

‘In fact, some women who do not develop breast cancer have higher risk estimates than some women who do develop breast cancer,’ the National Cancer Institute’s website says.

The Gail Model is made up of ten questions, including age, race/ethnicity, the age of the woman’s first menstrual period and the age at which she had her first child.

It takes roughly five minutes to complete and calculates risk for women between the ages of 35 and 85.

However, the test cannot accurately estimate breast cancer risk for women carrying a breast-cancer-producing mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 or women with a previous history of invasive or in situ breast cancer (lobular carcinoma in situ or ductal carcinoma in situ).

Munn’s doctor determined that based on her age, family history, and the fact that she had her first child after age 40, the actress had more than a one in three risk of developing the disease.

The average risk for a woman in her 40s is typically 0.9 percent for five years and about 12 percent for her lifetime. 

Someone with a high score on a breast cancer risk assessment may be advised to have extra breast examinations as well as a mammogram.

In a draft recommendation last year, the US Preventive Services Task Force said that all women at average risk of breast cancer should start screening with mammograms at age 40 to lower their risk of dying from the disease.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women who are at high risk of breast cancer based on certain factors get a breast MRI and a yearly mammogram starting at age 30.

How to calculate YOUR breast cancer risk 

1. Do you have a medical history of any breast cancer or of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or has she received previous radiation therapy to the chest for treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma?

2. Do you have a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, or a diagnosis of a genetic syndrome that may be associated with elevated risk of breast cancer?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unknown

3. What is your age? (This tool calculates risk for women between the ages of 35 and 85.)

4. What is your race/ethnicity?

5. Have you ever had a breast biopsy with a benign (not cancer) diagnosis?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unknown

If answered No or Unknown, go to question 9.  

6. If Yes, how many breast biopsies with a benign diagnosis have you had?

  • 1
  • 2 or more

7. Have you ever had a breast biopsy with atypical hyperplasia?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unknown

8. How old were you when you had your first menstrual period?

  • 7 to 11
  • 12 to 13
  • 14 or older

9. How old were you when you gave birth to your first child?

  • No Births
  • 20
  • 20-24
  • 25-29
  • 30 or older
  • Unknown

10. How many of the woman’s first-degree relatives (mother, sisters, daughters) have had breast cancer?

  • None
  • One
  • More than one
  • Unknown

To calculate your risk, input your answers at bcrisktool.cancer.gov

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