JEN URSILLO, January 13, 2019
Breast cancer experts offer all kinds of advice when it comes to how often a woman should get a mammogram, leading to confusion that could have an impact on treatment.
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is looking to cover the cost for 5,000 of its members to take part in a five-year study to improve breast cancer screening guidelines. The Women Informed to Screen Depending On Measures of Risk (WISDOM) study hopes to clarify which method is safer and more effective.
Horizon BCBSNJ Medical Director Daniel Halevy said there needs to be better risk profiling by figuring out which women have a higher risk because of family history or genetic makeup.
It would also be beneficial to women who are low-risk and don't need to be screened.
"Breast cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death in New Jersey and early detection is the key to successful treatment," said Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Thomas Graf. But recent data shows that 1 in 5 women age 50-74 living in the Garden State did not have a mammogram.
Women between the ages of 40 and 74 are eligible to take part in the study and those who have never had breast cancer, a history of pre-breast cancer, a mastectomy, or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
Halevy said Horizon is covering the cost for genetic testing which is not normally covered under most insurances as well as genetic counseling.
Participants can choose which part of the trial they would like to take part in: routine yearly screening or a personalized screening schedule that takes into consideration genetic and other personal factors like age, family history and breast density.
Participants will receive a genetic testing kit in the mail. All they have to do is swab the cheek then ship the saliva sample.
Halevy said in the past we have relied on government to fund these kinds of studies and the expectation is that health plans would not cover things that are not adequately studied. But those days are in the past.
"I think that a lot of things are moving into the market before there's a lot of evidence supporting it and that's where health plans really have to step in," added Halevy.
"But we're few and far between. So I think that hopefully as time goes on, more and more health plans will recognize the benefits and participate in studies like this."
Anyone who is interested in participating can learn more about the WISDOM Study and sign up at www.wisdomstudy.org.