Breast Density- Where We Stand
With revealing research and knowledge of how breast density can obscure a lump on a 2D mammogram, you would think it’s a given that radiologists now finally include breast density in a woman’s mammogram report. Sadly, that’s not completely true.
While it is not known exactly how many women in Australia have dense breasts, international studies suggest that dense breasts occur in more than half of women aged under 50 years, in around 40% of women in their fifties and in about 25% of women aged 60 and older. That being said, dense breasts aren’t rare and should not be ignored.
In the USA, 28 (56%) states have adopted a mandatory breast density notification requirement since 2005 and Federal legislation is pending. However, in Australia (excluding WA), there is currently no requirement for breast density to be provided on mammogram reports.
Not being included on the mammogram report means it is up to the patient to ask her doctor that density be included in the report. Only then will a patient be able to plan a breast cancer screening approach that is most suitable for her individual risks. This could save her life.
However, that’s assuming that every woman is aware of breast density and the increased risks associated with having them. Sadly, that’s not the truth.
According to a nationally-representative survey commissioned by Pink Hope that explored women’s awareness, or lack thereof, regarding breast density, almost two thirds (65.8%) of the 1,010 women surveyed had no idea that breast density can obscure a lesion or lump on a mammogram.
Meaning even if a woman was on top of her routine 2D mammogram screenings, she could still be at risk of a missed cancer detection.
As we mentioned, WA is the exception to this. BreastScreen WA notifies women and their GPs when a mammogram shows marked increased breast density. Women are advised in writing to consult their GP to discuss the significance of their breast density, to have a clinical examination and receive further advice about their breast cancer risk.
Why is this not a standard in all states? What is the Australian government waiting for? At the moment, women are having their annual 2D mammogram screenings and being given the all clear, with no regards to the potential of cancers hiding behind dense breast tissue.
This needs to change and is something Pink Hope is diligently fighting hard for. We’re currently ensuring density & risk is firmly on the government agenda and lobbying for change to density and risk guidelines.
For more information on our efforts and breast density, visit our density hub www.bedenseaware.com. Join us in the fight by sharing your story, donating or connecting with us on social media.