Better Breast Cancer Screening? Let’s Make it Personal
3 MINUTE READ
The goal of the WISDOM Study is to help us get even better at detecting breast cancer earlier, including cancers detected between mammogram screenings or at later stages.
By Thomas Vincz, Public Relations Manager
When it comes to how often a woman should get a mammogram, even health care experts can disagree. This has led to a lot of confusion around when women should get screened for breast cancer, the second leading cancer-related cause of death in New Jersey.
Horizon BCBSNJ members can make a big difference in helping end this confusion. Horizon is covering the cost for 5,000 women to participate in a five-year study to improve breast cancer screening protocols, including for women at higher risk of developing cancer.
Participating Horizon members would be part of a large national study called WISDOM (Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of Risk). The study seeks to clarify the safest, most effective screening method for women: routine yearly screening or a personalized screening schedule that takes into consideration genetic and other personal factors like age, family history, and breast density. This study is focused on the mammogram it is the most widely used tool to detect breast cancer early.
“I have a family history of breast cancer, so I didn’t think twice about signing up when I learned about Horizon’s opportunity to be a part of this study,” said Lisa, a 52-year-old Horizon member who enrolled in the study when it was announced earlier this year. “I saw Horizon’s post about the study while I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone when I was in line at the store. Within a few minutes, I was signed up. It was a really simple process.”
"That I was able to find out if I had any genetic markers for breast cancer was so powerful, and gave me important information that I shared with my doctor at my last visit."
Participation is free and easy
More than 115 women in New Jersey have already signed up for the study. But there’s a long way to go to meet the study’s enrollment targets.
That’s why Horizon BCBSNJ is making it easy and free to participate in the study, which is open to women between the ages of 40 and 74.
- Eligible members who choose to participate will be randomly assigned to either a personalized screening schedule group or an annual screening schedule group. If a member has a preference for one group over the other, she can also choose which to join.
- Members of the personalized screening group will be asked to submit saliva samples for genetic testing. They will receive a genetic testing kit at their homes, and they can return the kit by mail.
- Women in the annual screening group will simply get one mammogram a year, beginning at age 40. There’s no need for participants to change where they get their mammograms or go to extra clinic visits.
- To make study participation even more convenient, Summit Medical Group, Horizon’s OMNIA Alliance partner, recently joined the study.
- Later in June, the study will launch a Spanish-language version of its website. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Hispanic women.
For women like Lisa, getting personalized results were invaluable.
“I was placed in the personalized screening group. I got my test kit in the mail a few weeks later and submitted my sample that same day. It was great to get an email telling me my results were available through the secure website,” Lisa added. “That I was able to find out if I had any genetic markers for breast cancer was so powerful and gave me important information that I shared with my doctor at my last visit.”
Earlier, effective detection is possible
Currently, many experts recommend annual screenings for women after age 40 to ensure early breast cancer is detected. The goal of the WISDOM Study is to help us get even better at detecting breast cancer earlier, including cancers detected between mammogram screenings or at later stages.
Funded with support from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the WISDOM Study is being conducted by The Athena Breast Health Network (Athena) – a group of breast cancer experts, health care providers, researchers, and patient advocates at five University of California Medical Centers.
Researchers will engage up to 100,000 women across the country to participate in the study. Currently, just over 21,000 women have enrolled nationwide.
If you’re interested in learning more about the WISDOM Study and whether you qualify to participate, visit www.wisdomstudy.org.