Dr. Laura Esserman, a surgeon at the University of California San Francisco, is very passionate about a 5 year study that will use technology to improve breast cancer screening and patient outcomes. She leads the Athena Breast Health Network which is a collaboration of the five University of California medical centers. They will soon launch the WISDOM study (Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of Risk. The goal of the study is to determine if a personalized approach to breast cancer screening is as safe and effective as annual mammograms.
Dr. Esserman stresses that there are five things we need to know about breast cancer:
- It isn’t just one disease. Some are unlikely to cause patients harm and some are very aggressive. They should not be treated the same. “You have to make sure patients understand all of their options and are comfortable with their decisions because there’s more than one choice,” Dr. Esserman says.
- Not all breast cancer is life threatening. DCIS or “stage zero” cancer is diagnosed in 20% of new breast cancer cases. Studies suggest that treating this type of cancer aggressively is unnecessary for some patients. “One size does not fit all. We’ve got lots of data. It’s time to take what we’ve learned and change practice.”
- Everyone’s needs for screening are not the same. The WISDOM study is working with a next-generation sequencing company called Color Genomics. They will be trying to determine from genetics what influences patients’ risk and see if it improves information on when to start screening and how often to screen. Dr. Esserman believes it is time for a modern trial to look for who is at risk for different types of breast cancer. “That’s what the WISDOM study is all about. Over time, we’ll learn who is at risk for breast cancer and who is at risk for different interventions.”
- Consider participating in a clinical trial. Dr. Esserman is trying to recruit 100,000 women for this study. She wants women to share their stories so different alternatives can be studied.
Precision medicine is showing promise. Esserman compares precision medicine to the “Moneyball” story of the Oakland A’s. Statistics were discovered to tell a story that can affect and improve outcomes. Data can help make better decisions. “The WISDOM study is precision screening. We want to be smarter. We want to do it just right.”
The doctors at The Woman’s Clinic are dedicated to your health. If you haven’t scheduled your yearly exam, set it up online today!