What are the odds? Online calculators predict death, COVID-19, cancer, and more

By John Murphy
Published August 5, 2020

Key Takeaways

If physicians could more accurately predict how likely a patient is to have a heart attack, develop diabetes, or get breast cancer, they could save a lot more lives. Fortunately, researchers continue to develop nomograms, algorithms, and predictive tools to estimate these kinds of risks. Big data and artificial intelligence are making these kinds of risk tools more applicable to real-world, individual patient cases. Here are some of the top online risk calculators available today.

Predict a positive COVID-19 test

COVID-19 Risk Calculator

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic developed this calculator using data from nearly 12,000 patients enrolled in their COVID-19 registry. It’s meant to be used by healthcare providers to predict a patient’s likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19. The calculator can help healthcare providers tailor their decisions about patient care, as well as help hospitals triage care and effectively manage their resources.

After entering the patient’s demographic information, symptoms, and comorbidities, the calculator delivers a simple percentage that represents the patient’s probability of testing positive for COVID-19.

Calculate your chances of surviving COVID-19

COVID-19 Survival Calculator

The COVID-19 Survival Calculator predicts how likely you are to get COVID-19 and, if you do get it, how likely you are to die from it. Enter your weight, height, age, and other health data, including any chronic diseases or conditions you may have. Then answer a few behavioral questions about whether you’re social distancing, wearing a mask, work in healthcare, etc. The calculator uses artificial intelligence to weigh these different factors. From this, it estimates your risk of COVID-19 infection, your risk of dying from COVID-19, and your survival probability.

With so many unknowns about this virus, it’s somewhat reassuring to have at least a ballpark estimate of your chances against it.

Find out when you’ll die

Healthy Life Expectancy Calculator

The Healthy Life Expectancy Calculator estimates how many years you’ve got left to live. More importantly, it predicts how many healthy years—as well as unhealthy years—you may have left. The calculator is meant to help people make better lifestyle choices to extend their healthy life expectancy and minimize their unhealthy life expectancy, according to the calculator’s designers.

In addition to entering your age, weight, and height, you answer some multiple-choice fitness and lifestyle questions. The calculator will then tell you not only how many healthy and unhealthy years you have left, but the age when you’ll die. Don’t like the numbers you see? The results also offer some detailed suggestions. For example, if you lower your BMI, you may increase your healthy life expectancy by, say, 15 months. Or, if you get more sleep, you could get an extra 5% added on to your lifespan.

Predict CVD risk

ASCVD Risk Estimator Plus

Created by the American College of Cardiology, the ASCVD Risk Estimator Plus allows clinicians to calculate an individual patient’s risk for atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (ASCVD), especially due to dyslipidemia and hypertension. The calculator estimates a patient’s 10-year, lifetime, and optimal risks for ASCVD. It also provides individualized evidence-based intervention suggestions to help plan a treatment strategy with the patient. Plus, you can plug in different types of possible treatments to see how the effects would likely change the patient’s ASCVD risk. Finally, when the patient returns for follow-up, enter the patient’s latest numbers to get an updated 10-year ASCVD risk, which you can then track over time.

Calculate stroke risk

Stroke Risk Calculator

Found on the UCLA Comprehensive Stroke Center’s website, this Stroke Risk Calculator tells you your 10-year probability of having a stroke, the 10-year probability of stroke in your age group, and how your risk compares to other people your age. The calculator asks for no demographic information besides your sex and age range. But you’ll need to report any conditions like high blood pressure, heart conditions, atrial fibrillation, etc.

Discover your ‘future risk’ of prostate cancer

Prostate Cancer Risk Calculators

The Prostate Cancer Research Foundation, based in the Netherlands, has a series of six prostate cancer risk calculators. Why so many? The first two are designed for patients to use—for those who haven’t had a PSA test and for those who have. The other risk calculators are for clinicians and can be used for patients who haven’t had a biopsy and for those who have, and can include the patient’s measure of prostate volume or their score on the Prostate Health Index.

The newest of these risk calculators predicts a patient’s future prostate cancer risk over the next 4 years. This estimate is based on the patient’s age, PSA, digital rectal examination, family history, prostate volume, and previous biopsy status. This risk calculator is “a promising tool in reducing uncertainty, unnecessary testing, and overdiagnosis with regard to prostate cancer,” the foundation states.

Estimate breast cancer risk

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool

The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, from the National Cancer Institute, provides an estimate of a woman’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer over the next 5 years and over her lifetime. This calculator is based on the Gail Model, which estimates breast cancer risk based on specific patient information, including age, race/ethnicity, age at her first menstrual period, age at the birth of her first child (or no births), number of first-degree relatives with breast cancer, number of prior breast biopsies (positive or negative), and whether a biopsy showed atypical hyperplasia.

While researchers aim to constantly improve this calculator, it may underestimate risk in Black women with previous biopsies and Hispanic women born outside the United States. Also, this calculator isn’t intended for patients with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or those with a history of invasive or in situ breast cancer.

On the horizon, the University of Cambridge is currently developing The CanRisk Web Tool, which incorporates the Breast and Ovarian Analysis of Disease Incidence and Carrier Estimation Algorithm (BOADICEA). This algorithm calculates the risks of breast and ovarian cancer based on a patient’s family history. It can also calculate the probability that the patient has cancer-associated mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. The developers caution that the calculator is still in the research stage and is not for commercial use.

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