Project details

Researcher: Dr Jo Waller

Location: King's College London

Project title: Understanding how acceptable women would find tailored screening according to individual risk of breast cancer

Key area: Early detection and diagnosis

The challenge

Currently, breast screening in the UK is largely based on a ‘one size fits all’ approach, inviting women over the age of 50 to screening every three years. Having a screening programme which is instead adapted to women’s personal risk of developing breast cancer could be highly beneficial. Women who are at a high risk can be screened more often, and women at low risk could be screened less frequently, ensuring as many tumours as possible, that have potential to cause harm, are detected. However, we don’t currently know enough about how women would feel about a personalised approach to screening. We need to develop tools which carefully communicate the idea so we can increase the uptake of this approach.

The science behind the project

Professor Jo Waller and her team will interview and survey women to help uncover the most appropriate way to communicate about a personalised approach to screening. Women between the ages of 40 and 70 will be interviewed and asked what they consider to be the aspects which would help them decide whether to take part in a personalised screening programme. The research will explore women’s attitudes towards the approach and how they would feel about being classified as having a low, medium or high risk of developing breast cancer.

The team will also test how willing women would be to adopt this kind of approach to screening. They will do this by asking women to read several scenarios describing different personalised screening programmes, and seeing how they respond.

What difference will this project make?

The results from Professor Waller’s study will help researchers and clinicians understand what aspects of a personalised breast screening programme make it acceptable to women. This knowledge will advise future communication strategies and will hopefully result in more women taking part in this kind of screening. The hope is that this could result in fewer breast cancer deaths, while also helping to prevent women from undergoing treatment that they might not need.  

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