New Screening Tool for Hereditary Breast Cancer

It can help primary care physicians pinpoint patients at risk

MONDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A new screening tool can help general practitioners pinpoint which patients are at risk for hereditary breast cancer, according to a study published online Sept. 11 in Cancer.

Kent F. Hoskins, M.D., of the OSF Saint Anthony Center for Cancer Care in Rockford, Ill., and colleagues designed a pedigree assessment tool (PAT) that uses a scoring system based on family cancer history. Features that are associated with higher probability of the presence of the BRCA gene mutations are given higher weighting.

The PAT was tested against the Gail model in a population of 3,906 women, of whom 86 (2.2 percent) had a family history indicative of the BRCA mutation. In the high BRCA probability cohort, the PAT outperformed the Gail model, with 100 percent sensitivity and 93 percent specificity, versus 27 percent sensitivity and 73 percent specificity for the Gail model.

However, the authors stress that the Gail model is still an important tool for screening for cancer risk due to non-familial factors and other genetic influences other than BRCA1 and BRCA2.

"We believe that the concept of a comprehensive breast cancer risk-screening strategy applied to large populations at the primary care level warrants further investigation, and that such a strategy could be effectively employed by combining the Gail model with a tool like the PAT," the authors conclude.

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