Launched in November 2021, BRRISK is an online tool that helps women to optimise management of breast cancer risk and screening. The first woman to officially use BRRISK is Dr Ai Ling Tan, a Gynaecological oncologist based in Auckland. Here’s her report on why she’s using BRRISK and the benefits it offers New Zealand women.
I thought I would share my experience of using BRRISK, both as a woman and a gynaecological cancer surgeon (medical, but not one who works in the breast cancer area). I’m proud to be the first user of BRRISK, which I regard as a big step forward for personalised breast cancer risk management.
BRRISK was developed by the NZ Family Cancer Service in response to breast specialists’ plea for a tool that helps them prioritise who they really need to see. It’s also designed to assist GPs who are time poor, so that they can decide - in an evidence-based way - how to screen the woman sitting in front of them. BRRISK is much more than a family history breast cancer risks calculator, because it considers more factors that contribute to risk.
Health professionals have been using similar tools to assess risk and inform more personalised care. Now New Zealand women can have direct access to it. So if you’re wondering ‘what are my chances of getting breast cancer?’ BRRISK is here to help.
What exactly is BRRISK?
BRRISK a cloud-based breast assessment tool that women can access through a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. It helps stratify women into risk groups using a validated algorithm (developed by University of Cambridge). BRRISK captures and analyses health data to produce personalised reports. This assists women and their doctors decide on which pathway they can take for breast screening, so it’s more personalised. BRRISK is useful for high risk breast cancer screening, but it’s just as important for those who might appear low risk. Risk changes with age, stage, lifestyle and family history.
Women who have a high risk should have a referral to a breast specialist, while women who are at population risk can have normal screening, which in New Zealand is a two-yearly mammogram. Using BRRISK doesn’t replace screening, its role is to help direct who needs the various kinds of screening and when they should have it, in a more objective way.
Is it easy to use BRRISK?
I like how BRRISK is very user-friendly. I could easily navigate my way around and I didn’t encounter things that stopped me from progressing. I also liked that I couldn’t lose what I had entered - a particular beef of mine is redoing everything again!
I liked that the data is stored locally and is dynamic; I can easily update things like my mammogram or weight.
Enough about me. Before launch, BRRISK was offered to a group of diverse women to try. So what did they think? Everyone knew of a mammogram, but no one knew of a breast risk assessment tool. This is what they have to share.
“It is user-friendly and provides important information in a relatively common malignancy.”- Subhasni. BRRISK User
“Overall, I think this should be really helpful for women to sort out their risk - especially from the viewpoint that when you go to a surgeon or whoever to discuss your risk, a lot of it is not retained. It’s great to have an objective report you can refer to and think about subsequently.”- Helen. Doctor/BRRISK User
“Easy and simple to use, and great getting report instantly.”- Therese. BRRISK User
“I have found the site helpful and an easy, straightforward tool to use.” - RA. Doctor/BRRISK User
BRRISK is something every woman can do to help herself
Scientific data does not always direct choice and perception of risk is very personal, and doctors respect that. However, this tool is something that all women who haven’t been diagnosed with breast cancer can use to ensure a more personalised pathway of screening. It’s empowering, because they can now do more to manage their risk.
Last but not least, I urge all women to remember that any worrying symptoms or signs need medical attention, regardless of your report!
For further information on breast cancer awareness and health refer to https://www.breastcancerfoundation.org.nz/breast-awareness