What is the BRA Initiative?

Hi, I’m Doctor Kathleen O’Neil,Medical Director of St.  Mark’s Women’s Diagnostic Center. Now there are multiple sets of guidelines that are conflicting and creating confusion among women and the medical community.

Some organizations, like the American College of Radiology,the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are recommending annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40. The American Cancer Society recently changed their guidelines to recommend beginning at age 45. And the U. S.  Preventative Services Task Force is now recommending beginning at age 50. So this has created a confusing landscape for women when they’re trying to decide when they should or would begin screening mammograms.

So we wanted to create a solution for that. We felt that it was not in everyone’s best interest to try and navigate these guidelines when, in fact, it’s difficult for us to navigate these guidelines. And this is what we do for a living. It became more and more of a worry for me because I did not want women to potentially sacrifice breast health because there was this confusion in the medical community and the media.

And so I wanted to try to come up with something that could help answer questions for people and help them learn about themselves and their own breast risks, or their breast health. And it felt right. It felt like we might be able to help people. The Breast Risk Assessment or BRA initiative at St.  Mark’s is a program to help women understand their own risk for breast cancer and to develop a personalized breast cancer screening plantailored to those risks and also based on their own preferences for screening.

A BRA appointment is very different than a regular screening mammogram appointment. This appointment involves a mammogram, yes. But it involves much, much more than that. In terms of building a picture of each woman and her history and her risk and helping develop potentially a lifelong plan for breast screening. It is not a cookie cutter plan. It is not based on one size fits all. In fact, our goal is to move away from the one size fits all approach and build plans that are unique, unique to every woman and that can change as her life history changes.