A personalized touch to breast cancer screening
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women – second only to skin cancer – impacting 1 in 8 women over the course of her lifetime.
Yet guidelines and recommendations for breast cancer screenings from leading medical societies do not always agree on critical issues, such as screening schedules and the age a woman should get her first mammogram. This can lead to confusion for patients and their doctors.
Overscreening can lead to higher false positives, causing unnecessary breast biopsies and anxiety, and underscreening of women at higher risk may lead to missed opportunities for early detection.
Dr. Laura Esserman, a breast cancer specialist at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) stresses that healthcare is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and that breast cancer is no exception. “Breast cancer is not one disease, and all women are not at risk for the same kind of cancer, so we shouldn’t treat them all the same.”
To build a stronger understanding of how to personalize approaches to breast cancer prevention, Dr. Esserman and the Athena Breast Health Network have launched the Women Informed to Screen Depending On Measures of risk, or WISDOM Study. This groundbreaking clinical trial aims to end the confusion around how often women should get mammograms by comparing the effectiveness of a personalized screening protocol based on individual risks, such as genetic makeup and family history, to annual screening.
Realizing the potential of this important research to inform the future of breast cancer screening for generations of women, nine Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies* are partnering with Dr. Esserman and the Athena Breast Health Network to expand the WISDOM Study nationwide.
“In New Jersey, breast cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death. We know that early detection is the key to successful treatment, yet recent data show that in New Jersey, one in five women between the ages of 50-74 did not have a mammogram,” said Dr. Thomas Graf, chief medical officer and vice president of healthcare transformation at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. “Through our partnership with the WISDOM study, we hope to improve breast cancer screening protocols so we can close that gap in care and focus on reaching women who may be at higher risk to ensure they get the care they need.”
The WISDOM study has an ambitious goal of recruiting 100,000 women between the ages 40 and 74 who do not have a history of breast cancer. The program is already generating interest with more than 17,500 women enrolled to-date.
Blue Shield of California has been supportive of the WISDOM Study since its inception two years ago. “We’re excited to see if personalized risk assessment, including genetic testing, could play a new role in breast cancer screening protocols, said Henry Garlich, director of Blue Shield of California’s Healthcare Value Solutions and Enhanced Clinical Programs. “We believe the personalized nature of the study means that fewer indolent tumors will be detected, and this program has the potential to improve access to, and use of, preventive therapy for women at high risk, thereby actually modifying the incidence and progression of disease.”
The BCBS companies that are partnering with the WISDOM Study will cover the costs of risk assessment, high risk counseling and genomic profiling for select members who qualify to take part in the study.
“With the support of BCBS companies taking the study national, we have the opportunity to usher in a new way we practice medicine to get better outcomes and better values,” says Dr. Esserman.
Watch for more information about the WISDOM Study from Dr. Esserman.
*BCBS Plans that will be participating in the WISDOM Study include: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Blue Shield of California, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Regence BlueCross and BlueShield.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, Blue Shield of California, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Regence BlueCross and BlueShield are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.