Is there a more effective way to detect breast cancer than annual screening?


SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – Methods for detection and treatment of breast cancer are changing, as medical experts say the illness is not just one disease and should not be classified as one.

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Despite medical advances, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of death for women in the United States. To combat this statistic, doctors at UCSF are bringing together 100,000 diverse women to find the safest and most effective way to detect breast cancer.

The WISDOM Study tests two different approaches to breast screening: annual mammograms vs. personalized screening schedules based on a woman's risk for breast cancer.

Dr. Laura Esserman is the executive director of the UCSF Breast Care Center and principal investigator for the WISDOM Study, and Allison Fiscalini is the WISDOM Study executive director.

"Once upon a time when we first started thinking about screening, the answer was, well, people at a later stage of disease did much worse. So the whole idea was all we had to do was find it earlier, more like cervical cancer. And if we found out early, that would solve the whole problem. But in fact, it really hasn't," Esserman told KCBS Radio's "As Prescribed."

She explained that what these screenings are missing is the ability to find faster growing tumors.

"One of the things that we're trying to do is really develop what we call a 'personalized screening program' so that we can give women more specific advice, not only about screening, but also about prevention," she said.

UCSF is working to ensure the WISDOM Study is inclusive of people of all races and ethnicities.

"African American women do not have the same rates of getting breast cancer, but they have a 40% higher risk of mortality," Esserman said. "Part of the problem is that it is frequent that African American women are left out of studies and so our recommendations are not appropriate."

WISDOM 1.0 has concluded, but Fiscalini said UCSF is now searching for participants ages 30-39 and up to 74 to enroll in the personalized phase of the trial.

"It's a trial looking to see if personalized screening is as safe and effective as annual mammograms for everyone," Fiscalini described.

To join the study, visit the WISDOM Study website and fill out a registration form.

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