So you’ve taken the time to complete the Know Your Risk questionnaire and you have your assessment results. What now? What can you do to best manage your risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer?
Appropriate next steps for you will depend on your assessed risk. The tool will include personalised recommendations for next steps on your risk assessment results page.
Below we’ve summarised steps that should follow an online risk assessment such as Know Your Risk. While your own risk assessment results should be your go-to for your next steps, we hope this gives you a helpful ‘overview’ of next steps for the 3 risk categories; average, moderately increased and potentially high risk.
Some lifestyle factors can impact risk of breast or ovarian cancer, and even other cancers. For example, smoking and drinking alcohol are both associated with an increase in risk of breast cancer. Fortunately, lifestyle factors can usually be managed. We encourage all women, regardless of their risk category, to take the time to learn more about lifestyle factors and how to use them to their advantage.
All women should also be aware of the normal look and feel of their breasts. You can ask your doctor to give you a physical breast examination but it is also a good idea to do regular self-examinations. Pink Hope offers a resources that can help you examine your own breasts. It is also important to learn about the signs and symptoms of breast and ovarian cancer. Promptly report signs, symptoms or unusual changes to your GP.
Regular screening mammograms are also important as they can detect changes in the breast that are too small to be felt during a physical examination. All women aged between 50 and 74 years should get screening mammograms every 2 years. For women who are at moderately increased risk of breast cancer, screening mammograms are recommended from age 40 years. BreastScreen Australia provides free screening mammograms for women aged 40 years and over.
For high risk women with dense breast tissue it is worth investigating the suitability of additional screening like 3D Mammogram and ultrasound.
Screening mammograms are not recommended in women under the age of 40 years, as they are not effective in detecting breast cancer in this group. Women who are at potentially high risk of breast cancer, should receive ongoing surveillance. The type(s) and frequency of breast imaging for a women at high risk will depend on her age and other risk factors. Her cancer specialist will advise on the most suitable options.
All women who complete the Know Your Risk questionnaire can print their assessment for further discussion with their GP. However, women who are at increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer are specifically encouraged to seek medical advice. Women who are assessed to be at moderately increased risk should ask their GP whether referral to a family cancer clinic may be a suitable option for them. Women who are assessed to be at potentially high risk should ask their GP for referral to a family cancer clinic and/or a cancer specialist. A family cancer clinic will be able to accurately assess your familial risk of developing these cancers through genetic testing and advise on appropriate next steps. A cancer specialist will be able to discuss your risk surveillance and management options based on your personal risk. They will also be able to advise on risk-reducing strategies available to you.
Overall we believe knowledge is a powerful thing.
All women should be aware of their personal risk factors for breast and ovarian cancer and what they can do to keep their risk of developing these cancers as low as possible.
Lastly, remember that your healthcare professionals are there to help you – when in doubt or feeling concerned, don’t hesitate to ask for help and advice.