Olivia Munn Says Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score ‘Saved’ Her Life—Here’s What to Know

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  • Actor Olivia Munn, 43, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, she announced Wednesday.

  • Munn said she was “saved” by her doctor, who decided to calculate her Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score.

  • A Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score helps healthcare providers estimate a woman’s five- or 10-year and lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

Olivia Munn was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, she announced on Instagram Wednesday. In the 10 months since her diagnosis, Munn said she’s had four surgeries, including a double mastectomy.

“I hope by sharing this it will help others find comfort, inspiration and support on their own journey,” Munn, 43, wrote in the caption accompanying her post.

In the post itself, Munn detailed her journey to diagnosis, which began in February 2023 when she took a genetic test “in an effort to be proactive about [her] health.” She shared that she tested negative for any genetic mutations that may have predisposed her to cancer, like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations linked to breast cancer, and had a “normal mammogram” that winter.

Still, Munn’s OB-GYN opted to calculate her Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score—which she credits with saving her life.

“[My doctor] looked at factors like my age, familial breast cancer history, and the fact that I had my first child after the age of 30,” Munn wrote. “She discovered my lifetime risk [of breast cancer] was at 37%. Because of that score, I was sent to get an MRI, which led to an ultrasound, which led to a biopsy.”

That biopsy showed that Munn had luminal B breast cancer, a subtype of breast cancer. Luminal B tumors are less common than luminal A tumors and tend to grow faster and have a worse prognosis. According to Munn’s post, “Luminal B is an aggressive, fast moving cancer.”

Munn, who had her double mastectomy 30 days after her biopsy, said she’s lucky that the cancer was caught “with enough time that [she] had options.”

She also urged women and people with breasts to ask their doctors to calculate their Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score, adding that “if the number is greater than 20%, you need annual mammograms and breast MRIs starting at age 30.”

Below, experts share what you need to know about having your own Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score calculated, and how to interpret and act on those results.

<p>WWD / Contributor / Getty Images</p>

WWD / Contributor / Getty Images

What Is a Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score?

A Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score is calculated by a Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool (BCRAT), of which there are two types: The Gail Model and the Tyrer-Cuzick Risk Assessment Calculator. These tools help healthcare professionals estimate a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer within five or 10 years, along with their lifetime risk of developing the disease.

Each tool is slightly different and scores can vary between models, but they can generally give you estimates of your breast cancer risk based on different combinations of questions about your personal medical history, reproductive history, and family history.

“The Gail model tends to overestimate risk, and the [Tyrer-Cuzik] tends to overestimate it,” said Jason Mouabbi, MD, an oncologist in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Because of that, some doctors may calculate your risk from both tools to ensure a more well-rounded sense of your risk.

Each tool takes into account your current age, race/ethnicity, the age you were when you first menstruated, whether (and when) you’ve given birth, if anyone in your family has had breast or ovarian cancer, whether you’ve had past breast biopsies, and whether you have any known genetic mutations.

Both tests are available to take online, and take as little as five minutes to complete. The Tyrer-Cuzick Risk Assessment Calculator is for non-clinical use and meant only to inform you of your cancer risk—if you have any questions, they should be addressed with your healthcare provider. The Gail Model is also available online via the National Cancer Institute—while that tool is designed to be done by a healthcare provider, experts say there’s no harm in doing it yourself.

“Anyone can calculate their risk,” Richard Reitherman, MD, PhD, medical director of breast imaging at MemorialCare Breast Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told Health. “There are many good applications that are user-friendly and are available online.”

Though the tool may be helpful for many women, it cannot accurately estimate a woman’s breast cancer risk if she is carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, has previously had invasive or in situ breast cancer, if she’s undergone radiation to the chest, or if she has other inherited breast cancer-causing syndromes.

How to Interpret Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Results

Your Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score is given in the form of percentages that break down your five- or 10-year risk of developing breast cancer, along with your lifetime risk of developing the disease.

If you use The Gail Model, available through the National Cancer Institute, the results are easy to read, with your risk score listed next to the average risk of women of the same age, race, and ethnicity to help you see whether you’re considered at or above average risk. However, because this tool is intended for healthcare professionals, it’s recommended that you print out the results to discuss with your healthcare provider.

Knowing your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer can help you make informed choices about screening—as Munn shared in her Instagram post, having a lifetime risk of 20% or higher puts you in the high-risk category for breast cancer, and means you should get a breast MRI and mammogram every year, starting at age 30. With a higher lifetime risk percentage, it’s also important to work with a healthcare professional on the best strategy for monitoring your health.

Although your Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score may be accurately estimated, it’s important to note that it can not definitively predict who will or will not go on to develop breast cancer. Having a high risk doesn’t mean a person is going to be diagnosed with breast cancer, just as having a low risk doesn’t mean a person will never develop the disease.

In that case, it’s essential to use your Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score in conjunction with other preventative measures, including keeping up with regular mammograms, said Mouabbi, along with being familiar with your body and any changes that may arise.

“In healthcare, everything is about trends with your own personal health,” said Christine Greves, MD, an OB-GYN at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, Florida. “If you notice a change in your breast, regardless of whether you have those risk factors or not, it’s important to bring it up to your doctor to get further evaluated.”

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Read the original article on Health.com.