FARGO — Medical researchers want to answer a question that confronts doctors and women: Would personalized screening be more effective than the annual mammograms that have been recommended for decades to detect breast cancer?
A new national study aims to answer that question, and women are being recruited to participate at no cost in a comparison of the effectiveness of the two screening methods.
It’s called the WISDOM study — Women Informed to Screen Depending On Measures of risk — and its sponsors include Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota and Sanford Health.
The study has a goal of recruiting 100,000 women who have not had breast cancer between the ages of 40 and 74.
So far, 27,000 women have enrolled, including 6,000 from Sanford Health in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
Study participation through Sanford currently leads among health systems, said Dr. Andrea Kaster, a doctor at the Edith Sanford Breast Center and one of 10 investigators conducting the study.
Mammogram screening recommendations vary, but generally doctors recommend that women between the ages of 40 and 74 get yearly scans.
“That’s what Sanford still recommends,” Kaster said. The age to stop screening is based on a discussion between the patient and provider, she said, taking risk factors into consideration.
“With so many recommendations for breast cancer screening out there, it can be hard for patients and providers to know what the right approach is for them,” she said.
“Clinical studies like WISDOM help us use the latest in imaging and genetics along with a patient’s personal history to determine how best to screen women for breast cancer," she added. "Through this study, I hope that we will be able to contribute to developing a more personalized approach to breast cancer screening.”
Dr. Greg Glasner, chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, said if personalized screening proves effective, it could spare many women from the anxiety caused by false positives.
“The results of the study have the potential to impact existing standards of practice on screening and prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer,” he said. “Supporting the WISDOM study by encouraging eligible members to participate in the study is an important step in its success.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota will cover the cost of services a member may receive through the study, with no cost sharing or impact to the member’s preventive benefit accumulations.
Similarly, the Sanford Health Plan covers the cost of genetic testing, assessments and other expenses associated with the WISDOM study for its members who are enrolled in the study and are asked to be tested.
The study will last five years, but partial results will be released before the study’s conclusion.