Breast cancer study uses personalized approach

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A new study at Sanford Health might help women determine how they should be screened for breast cancer based on their personal history.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists revised mammogram guidelines in early 2017 to recommend closer communication between provider and patient to guide screening strategies.

This study is one way to determine if more personalized approaches lead to better outcomes than traditional screening methods. Five universities and Sanford Health have teamed as members of the Athena Breast Health Network for the study, which began Nov. 1 at Sanford Health, and will last five years. Sanford Health is the only site in the U.S. outside of California to offer the study.

Athena’s Women Informed to Screen Depending On Measures of risk Study, or Wisdom Study, through the Edith Sanford Breast Center will randomly place participants in one of two screening channels– traditional annual screening and risk-based screening. The study will determine whether a personalized approach to breast cancer screening is as safe and effective as an annual mammogram.

As part of the study, women in the risk-based group will be assessed using a combination of personal history, family history, breast density and genetic testing. Current mammogram guidelines can be confusing and inconsistent. The study aims to discover the best course of action to both catch breast cancer early and also avoid false alarms and unnecessary biopsies for women.

“We continue to search for ways to improve predictions about who will get breast cancer and treatments for those who do,” said David Pearce, Ph.D., executive vice president of innovation and research at Sanford Health. “When our patients at Sanford join the Wisdom Study, they are taking an active role in discovering the best way to detect breast cancer for future generations.”

The Athena Breast Health Network is a group of cancer experts, health care providers, researchers and patient advocates at five University of California Medical Centers and the Sanford Health System. The study is funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and private donations.

“With so many recommendations for breast cancer screening out there, it can be difficult to know what’s right for patients,” said Allison Suttle, M.D., chief medical officer and OB/GYN at Sanford Health. “This study is another way to gather information for women to use when they make decisions about their care and for our physicians to use when suggesting a screening plan.”

About Sanford Health
Sanford Health is one of the largest health care systems in the nation, with 44 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in nine states and four countries. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and serving the Upper Midwest, with nearly 1,400 physicians, Sanford Health is dedicated to several initiatives, including global clinics, genomic medicine and specialized centers researching cures for type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and other diseases. Sanford Health has 28,000 employees, making it the largest employer in the Dakotas. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford over the past decade have transformed how Sanford Health can improve the human condition. For information, visit