Hoag Early Risk Assessment (HERA) Program - Turning Awareness into Action

By Orange County Register

October 20, 2016

Just by virtue of their gender, all women are at risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Knowing your individual risk can make all the difference.

That is why Hoag Breast Center in Irvine now offers the Hoag Early Risk Assessment (HERA) program, which goes beyond screening mammograms to give women the in-depth information they need to take control of their breast health.

Available for free to eligible women between the ages of 35-55 who get their mammograms at Hoag, HERA provides women with both the results of their screening mammogram and their relative risk of developing breast cancer. Risk is based on two trusted risk assessment models, the Gail and Tyrer-Cuzik models.

Women and their referring providers receive results of their risk assessment along with their mammograms. If a woman has a “normal” mammogram but an elevated risk, the program provides for a free individualized consultation with a high risk nurse practitioner.

“We reach out to all eligible women who are at elevated risk. We have a personal conversation with them and make recommendations based on their unique risk,” said Karen Herold, DNP, WHCNP-BC, FNP-BC, High Risk Breast Cancer Nurse Practitioner. “This empowers women to know what their risk is and educate them about what they can do about it.”

Many of the factors that increase a woman’s lifetime risk are within a woman’s control, including body mass index, smoking and exercise. In fact, at least 75-80% of breast cancer cases are caused by risk factors other than genetics.

This means that women have the power to reduce their risk. The program also assists primary care providers by notifying them of their patients’ elevated risk and providing them with individualized recommendations for their patients.

In a pilot program of 300 women, Hoag found 13.8% were at elevated risk – higher than the national average of 12%. The women enrolled in the program said they appreciated being able to use the information to make educated decisions with their physicians about how to address their risk.

“They reduced their weight, increased their exercise, decreased alcohol and decreased their smoking,” Herold said. “Some went to genetic counseling, and all of them said they understood their risk for developing breast cancer more than they had before.”

They say knowledge is power. The power of HERA is to help women turn awareness into action.