Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Researchers Double Effort to Enroll Women in Breast-Disease Study

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Researchers Double Effort to Enroll Women in Breast-Disease Study

Article excerpt

Leaders of a landmark study aimed at heightening the focus on family medical history and genetic drivers that put some women at higher risks than others for developing breast disease are ramping up efforts to add Black females to their hoped-for pool of 100,000 participants.

So far, Black women, who tend to be diagnosed later and die more often from the disease than women of other races, comprise 1.7 percent of the 9,195 women who have signed on to the five-year Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of risk (WISDOM) study.

The study's researchers - at the University of California at San Francisco, North Dakota-based Sanford Health and Color Genomics - hope 10,000 Black women will take part in the study. Participation requires filling out an online questionnaire and then being selected randomly to either get a yearly mammography screening for breast abnormalities or to undergo genetic tests pinpointing breast cancer risks.

The study is examining, among other questions and protocols, how often women should undergo mammography and the extent to which intensively targeted mammography tests, tumor and tissue biopsies and examinations of genes known to fuel breast cancer will result in more life- and cost-saving breast cancer treatments.

The debate over when to begin routine mammography testing and how often women should have a mammography has resulted in women at low risks often spending needless money in such screenings and sometimes being made needlessly anxious. Patients, particularly those at higher risks for breast cancer, and health care providers would be better served by more strategic screenings, including genetic ones, WISDOM researchers argue.

"People automatically are being screened [via annual mammography] for thirty to forty years," said Dr. Laura Esserman, the UCSF Helen Diller Center on Comprehensive Cancer Care oncologist, surgeon and professor who leads the research. "After 10 years of screening, 50 percent of women have biopsies whose results show that what was tested is benign.

"Who does that help? How much more does it tell us about who's at risk? How do we do better? It's important to take the money already in the health care system and repurpose it, and make sure we are learning and improving and not just doing the same thing over and over again."

Those questions are important for all women, but especially critical for Black women, Esserman's research team suggests. Deaths from breast cancer have declined overall in recent years, but disproportionately higher numbers of Black women continue to die from the disease.

The latest available data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, between 1999 and 2014, White women had the highest rates of breast cancer diagnoses, followed by Black, then Hispanic, then Asian/Pacific Islander, then Native American/Alaska Native women. …

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