Nationwide breast cancer study improving screening education

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Aajene Robinson

A breast cancer awareness study called the Wisdom Study is a nationwide effort to improve breast cancer screening methods for women.

The Wisdom Study is open to women between the ages of 40 and 74 who have not had breast cancer, and will compare the top two screening approaches: annual mammograms versus a personalized approach taking risk factors into account.

Study leader Laura Esserman said they’re looking for 100,000 participants, with 5,000 of those coming from Alabama.

“That’s how we are going to make the future better by doing something for all women that all women can participate in,” Esserman said.

The Wisdom Study has partnered with UAB Hospital and five University of California medical centers.

Esserman said this past year women have been focused on staying safe at home, so there’s been a significant decline in breast screening rates.

“We’ve been screening the same way for 30, 40 years but we can’t hope that things are somehow going to get magically better unless we make a change,” Esserman said. “This is one of those big questions can we personalize screenings, can we make it more based on risk.”

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Wisdom Study’s goal is promoting breast health and a safe return to breast cancer screenings.

Getting involved is easy. If you’re interested and meet the study criteria, you can click here to learn more or sign up.

“People get anxious about studies,” Esserman said. “They say, ‘Well, what is a study? I don’t want to be a guinea pig. What’s that about?’ ”

But every advancement in science and medical technology has come from research and studies, she said.

“There’s almost no reason not to join because most women spend 35 years of their life screening,” she said. “They might as well take the next five years, do it with us and let’s see if we can make it better.”

Another big focus of the study? Improving the disparity in breast cancer deaths among women of color. Risk assessments are particularly important among women of color because they can be more at risk for lethal cancers.

“African American women in particular are more at risk for triple-negative breast cancer,” Esserman said. “We really want to make sure that African American women all over the country are represented.”

Esserman said it’s time for screening guidelines to change and reflect medicine’s growing knowledge because there are still 40,000 women a year dying of breast cancer.

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