Assessing the Risk of Breast Cancer

The risk for breast cancer is not the same for all women. Some women need more advanced screening beyond the standard recommendations. But it’s not always clear who may be at higher risk.

To meet this challenge, Lahey Health is introducing a Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to help you and your doctor accurately determine your risk for breast cancer.
The earlier cancer is found, the greater the chance of successful treatment. This new tool helps you and your doctor determine what level of screening is best for you.

An Easy-to-Use Questionnaire

You use the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool at the time of your annual mammogram at a Lahey imaging center. Using an electronic tablet, you confidentially answer questions about your health and family history, such as:

  • Your height and weight
  • When your periods started and/or ended
  • Your pregnancies, if any
  • Whether you have had cancer or certain other conditions
  • Whether your family members have had cancer

To make the tool most effective, you should know the medical history of your relatives, especially as it relates to cancer – such as the type of cancer they had and their age when they were diagnosed.

What the Results Show

After you complete the questionnaire, the information you provided will be used to calculate your lifetime risk of breast cancer, using nationally recognized methods. You will receive a letter in the mail informing you of your level of risk. A copy of the assessment report will be placed in your medical record.

You and your doctor can then use this information to decide if you might benefit from a higher level of screening beyond regular checkups and mammograms. Some of these more advanced screening options include ultrasound, MRI or genetic testing.

At Lahey, the care of our patients is our highest priority. This Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Screening Tool supports our commitment to help women manage their health in the best way possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why does my care team need this tool to figure out my risk?

A: While high risk for some women is obvious, certain combinations of factors – such as when you had your first period or your first child – may also put you at higher risk that isn’t immediately obvious but can be determined by the computerized calculations.

Q: Is this risk assessment mandatory? 

A: No. This is an optional service that can help you determine if you might benefit from additional testing or screening which could detect early-stage breast cancer and/or reduce your risk for developing breast cancer in the future. If you prefer not to participate, please speak with the clinic staff when you check in. You will still need to complete some standard intake questions.

Q: Will this assessment tell me if I have cancer or will develop cancer in the future?

A: No, this risk assessment is not a diagnostic test. It does not indicate whether you have or will develop cancer. However, it is a tool that can help you and your doctor manage your health. This calculation does not replace recommended screenings, exams or procedures.

Q: Will I be charged for this risk assessment?

A: There is no charge. This is a free service.

Q: How will I be notified about my risk?

A: You will receive a letter in the mail informing you of your level of risk. A copy of the assessment report will be placed in your medical record. The letter you receive will contain contact information for you to use if you have additional questions at that time.

Q: What if I don’t know the answers to some questions?

A: You can skip questions if you don’t know the answers. However, the more information you can provide, the more accurate your results will be.

Q: What if I learn new information about my family history after I’ve completed the questionnaire?

A: If your health and/or family history information changes, you may revise your answers at your next annual mammogram so that your risk can be recalculated.

Q. What happens to my information after my risk is calculated?

A: Your risk will be calculated, and the results will be stored in your medical record.

If you have additional questions about this risk assessment, please call your screening site.

Lahey Hospital & Medical Center
781.744.8917

Lahey Medical Center, Peabody
978.538.4660

Lahey Outpatient Center, Lexington
781.372.7035

Lahey Outpatient Center, Danvers
978.304.8101

Winchester Hospital
781.756.2308