Evaluation of Breast Cancer Risk Calculators as Learning Tools

Author: Peggy Gregg, RN

Primary Advisor: Cynthia L. Phelps, PhD (co-author)

Committee Members:

Masters thesis, The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston.

Objective: To evaluate the learning of breast cancer risk factors and risk levels, to evaluate changes in perception of risk, and to explore behavior modification intent using a breast cancer risk calculator. Methods: A convenience sample of seventy-three women aged thirty-five and older was recruited to use two different public online breast cancer risk calculators. A pre-test posttest questionnaire format was used to evaluate participant’s knowledge before and after using one of the calculators. Results: Participants’ identification of risk factors improved in areas covered by the risk calculators and perception of personal risk was more accurately associated with current incidence in the United States. Participants’ concern about developing breast cancer decreased and participants intended to act upon the information they received. Conclusion: Women have some knowledge of breast cancer risk factors and they are concerned about developing breast cancer. Women tend to overestimate the incidence of breast cancer and their own risk level. Breast cancer risk calculators help educate women on some breast cancer risk factors while providing a risk estimate and are one resource in the understanding of breast cancer risk. However, because of the limitation of the risk calculator’s coverage of all risk factors and because of the complexity of understanding risk, additional resources to augment the education of women about breast cancer are recommended.