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How Often Should I Be Getting Screened For Breast Cancer?

Why There's No "1 Size Fits All" When It Comes to Breast Cancer Screening

Almost every day, at least one woman will come into my office and ask the exact same question: "How often should I be getting screened for breast cancer?"

They're worried. And they're confused.

Women know that 1 in 8 of us will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and we all want to make sure that if it happens to us, we've caught it as early as possible. For a generation, we've all been taught that annual mammograms are the way we do that.

But it's a funny thing. If you ask three medical professionals how often you should be getting screened for breast cancer, you end up with about four different answers. And the truth is, not one of those medical professionals actually knows for sure, what screening program is right for you.

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Because every woman is different. We are not all the same. We all have different family histories and genetics, different environmental exposures and different lifestyles. And because of these differences, our own personal risk of getting breast cancer is not the same. That risk is something that we've gotten pretty good at measuring.

So, I think it's time that every woman has her own personal breast cancer screening recommendation that matches her personal risk of breast cancer.

If you're high risk, we'll screen you more often. If you're low risk, we'll give you a bit of a break from the annual mammograms and try them less frequently. If you are at risk for fast growing tumors, you may need to be screened more often. If you are at risk for slower growing tumors, you can be screened less frequently (like we do for cervical cancer now).

I want to be able to give my patients a better answer when they come looking for guidance, an answer that is personalized for them, not their demographic.

That's why we've started the Wisdom Study with my colleagues at the Athena Breast Health Network. We've built a cloud-based trial to show that generalizations on breast cancer screening can lead to false positives and unnecessary testing. We're challenging today's screening guidelines that can be confusing and are based on decade's old science. We're working to match today's recommendations with today's science and technology.

We're on this journey to build a movement of women, 100,000 strong, that takes genetic testing and a personalized risk assessment to craft a framework for precision breast cancer screening. We're out to prove that when we #getwise, we're more effective in detection and prevention. We're out to prove that when we personalize guidelines, we can make sure that each woman has the right prevention and screening specific to her body, history, and lifestyle.

But we can't do this alone. To achieve our goal of 100K strong — bringing in 100,000 women and $100,000 — we need an incredible community to join the movement so we can all get wise about breast cancer. If we do this together, we can create new guidelines so that you, and women across the country, have access to the right prevention and screening. Together, we can save lives.

How can you help? Two easy ways:

  • Donate today. Your donations will help us provide women with personalized risk assessments, genetic testing, and high-risk counseling. Text Wisdom to 71777 to donate.
  • Join the Wisdom community. If you're a woman between 40-74, living in California, North/South Dakota, Iowa, or Minnesota, you are eligible to join the study today at wisdomstudy.org. If you're not eligible, share the study with others who may be able to participate — your mother, sister, friends or colleagues.

A special thank you to our friends at Column Five for helping us get wise about breast cancer screening.

Image Source: UCSF
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