Getting Answers: Breast Cancer Study Examines Effectiveness Of Mammograms

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Tens of thousands of women are needed for a massive study to test a new breast cancer screening.

The WISDOM study, which stands for Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of risk, is being done at all five University of California medical centers. It will test whether annual mammograms are really the best way to screen for breast cancer, or if a more personalized approach involving genetics could deliver better results.

Some experts say women should be getting mammograms annually starting at the age of 40; others recommend screenings after age 45 or 50.

Researchers part of this study say many women are left confused about breast cancer — when to screen? How to screen? They’re hoping to change that.

“I have been told by radiologists that I should get a mammogram every year because I’m 55, but I don’t believe I’m at that high of risk,” says Sacramento resident Dorsey Griffith.

Griffith is a UC Davis Health staff member and one of about 6,000 women signed up to participate.

“I hope it answers some questions once and for all for women throughout the country as to whether they need annual mammograms or not,” she said.

The study is recruiting 100,000 women throughout the state of California.

“We really want to answer the question, what’s the right screening level for an individual woman? And we’ve learned it’s not the same answer for every woman,” said pathologist Dr. Sandy Borowsky.

Borowsky is the principal investigator of the study at UC Davis Health. He says women taking part in the WISDOM study will be split into two groups: one group that does mammogram screenings every year starting at the age of 40, which has been the gold standard for the last 30 years, and the other group will go through a more personalized approach where screenings are based on your risk level, determined by an extensive questionnaire and a DNA kit mailed to your home.

“They ask a lot of questions, family health, lifestyle, if you smoke, do you drink,” said Griffith.

“You’ll get a report back, based on your questionnaire answers and genetics, that will tell you what your risk level is. You won’t have to have unnecessary biopsies that are very scary, waiting for a diagnosis,” said Dr. Borowsky.

Researchers are allowing women to choose which group they’d like to be placed in, as long as they stay the course.

The hope? To provide real answers.

“I do think it will help me personally, but it will probably help a lot of other women too once the study is completed,” said Griffith.

Several insurance companies have opted to cover the cost of the genetic portion of the tests. For participants who do not have coverage, the genetic tests will be paid for with charitable funds.

If you’re interested to learn more about how to participate, click here.

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