Olivia Munn credits this online tool for helping diagnose her breast cancer

Lifestyle

Actress Olivia Munn revealed on Wednesday that she recently underwent a double mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis, and credited an online risk assessment tool for saving her life.

The 43-year-old took to Instagram to share her breast cancer story, saying she was diagnosed last year and underwent four operations in the last 10 months.

Munn, known for her roles in X-Men: Apocalypse and Magic Mike, revealed that despite testing negative for 90 different cancer genes in a genetic test she took in February 2023, her doctor decided to calculate her breast cancer risk assessment.

The risk assessment test, she said, led to further tests, including a biopsy that showed she had “Luminal B cancer in both breasts.”

“I wouldn’t have found my cancer for another year at my next scheduled mammogram except that my OBGYN…decided to calculate my Breast Cancer Risk Assessment score,” she wrote in her Instagram post. “The fact that she did saved my life.”

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Click to play video: 'Ontario woman who beat stage 3 breast cancer says it shouldn’t be this hard to get treatment'


Ontario woman who beat stage 3 breast cancer says it shouldn’t be this hard to get treatment


Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women. Each year, more than 22,000 women develop breast cancer in Canada and more than 5,000 die of the disease, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Based on current rates, one in nine women in Canada is expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime.

Several risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing breast cancer, including biological factors like age and family history, as well as lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. However, PHAC emphasized that most women may have some of these risk factors. Having one or more risk factors does not necessarily indicate a future breast cancer diagnosis.

Kimberly Carson, CEO of Breast Cancer Canada, emphasized the importance of breast cancer assessment tests as valuable tools for raising awareness and understanding one’s health. However, she cautioned against solely relying on these tests.

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“Everything now is personalized medicine, so you need to understand your own body, your own health. You need to watch for signs and changes in your own body and your own health. And although the risk assessment tool is helpful, I wouldn’t base everything on that,” she stressed.

What is the breast cancer risk assessment tool?

The breast cancer risk assessment tool Munn refers to is based out of the United States and is used to estimate a person’s risk of developing this disease over a certain period.


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In her post, Munn detailed how her doctor considered factors such as her age, family history of breast cancer, and the fact that she gave birth to her first child after the age of 30. This assessment revealed a lifetime risk of 37 per cent for Munn.

“Because of that score, I was sent to get an MRI, which led to an ultrasound, which then led to a biopsy. The biopsy showed I had Luminal B cancer in both breasts. Luminal B is an aggressive fast-moving cancer,” she said.

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In Canada, Carson said people can use the breast cancer risk assessment tool online at MyCancerIQ. This online tool can also be used for other types of cancers, such as cervical, colorectal, kidney and lung.


Click to play video: 'How women at high risk of breast cancer can reduce their risk'


How women at high risk of breast cancer can reduce their risk


The assessment tool helps you “learn about things that might be raising or lowering your risk for certain cancers. At the end of each assessment, you’ll receive personalized tips on what you can start doing right now to help lower your risk and live a longer, healthier life,” the website states.

Risk factors for breast cancer encompass a range of considerations such as family history, age at onset of menstruation, genetic predispositions, age at first childbirth, as well as lifestyle factors including smoking, alcohol consumption and weight.

Anyone can take the online test, and Carson said if you are concerned about the results, talk with your health-care provider.

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Apiramy Jeyapalan, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, said breast cancer screening tests help find the disease early before people notice symptoms.

“The most important thing to know is the earlier a cancer is found, the better the treatment options and outcomes can be,” Jeyapalan told Global News in an email sent Thursday.

When to screen for breast cancer

Despite current Canadian guidelines suggesting routine mammography screening every two to three years for women aged 50 to 74, Carson highlighted that the Breast Cancer Society recommends beginning screenings at age 40 to detect breast cancer.

This is because the number of women who are getting breast cancer in their 40s is increasing, Carson said.

Several provinces are now advocating for women to begin breast cancer screening at the age of 40, with Ontario being one of the most recent ones to make this recommendation.

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Click to play video: 'Ontario lowers age for mammograms to 40'


Ontario lowers age for mammograms to 40


The move follows a draft recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force last year that said screenings in that country should start at 40 instead of 50 because evidence suggests that would have a moderate benefit in reducing deaths.

Carson encourages Canadians to utilize the breast cancer assessment tool, as it helps highlight risk factors. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of scheduling mammograms b– starting at age 40 — alongside using these tools.

“[Mammograms] are still our best first line of defense for breast cancer,” she said. “And the earlier we catch it, the more curable it is.”

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