Upgraded Prostate Cancer Risk Calculator 2.0, with emojis, is available online

A calculator to help men and their doctors assess the risk of prostate cancer has had a major upgrade to enhance men's and their physicians' understanding of a man's risk of prostate cancer.

"The prostate cancer risk calculator has been updated using current risk factors and a better interface; the current version gives a more nuanced result that helps understand a man's risk of prostate cancer," said Ian M. Thompson Jr., MD, director of the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He helped develop the risk calculator and co-authored a commentary published in JAMA (2014; doi:10.1001/jama.2014.9680). The risk calculator is available at www.myprostatecancerrisk.com.

The free calculator on the Health Science Center Web site takes just minutes to use and gives a man more information about his risk for both low-grade prostate cancer, which may never require treatment, and high-grade prostate cancer. The calculator constructs an emoji graphic readout that puts the numeric percentages into a visual perspective. Significantly, it also gives the possibility in numbers (and emojis) that he may have no prostate cancer at all.

"What is important are the three numbers," Thompson said. "For doctors, it makes for a more challenging conversation with the patient. For the patient, it gives him better information so he can decide how he wants to move forward."

The primary purpose of assessing prostate cancer risk is detection of high-grade, high-risk cancers. "The prostate cancers you want to find are the high-grade cancers," Thompson said, "because then we can take action to prolong and even save a man's life."

"On the other hand, in some men, a prostate biopsy will far more commonly find a low-grade cancer. These cancers have such a low risk that many men who take the time to fully understand the options, decide to simply monitor them", said Thompson. "For many men who have been diagnosed with these low-risk cancers, they wish they'd known about that before they had a prostate biopsy; many, in retrospect wish they'd not had a biopsy in the first place. This new risk calculator helps them understand that risk in advance."

The risk calculator is based on data from the 18,882-man National Cancer Institute's Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT), a national multisite study of which Thompson was the original principal investigator. The first risk calculator was made available in 2006, but Thompson said as screening and treatment affects more and more of the population, it changes the risk factors that affect the calculations. The Cancer Therapy and Research Center scientific team has continued to update the calculator since 2006.

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