Make sure you know the right information when it comes to your breast health. There are so many misconceptions, which does make it confusing for women – so we break those down for you.
Breast Density 101
You can tell your breast density based on breast size or shape.
You may be surprised to learn that breast density isn’t based on how your breasts look or feel e.g. the size or firmness.1 In fact, breast density is seen only on mammograms.1 Breast density relates to the type of tissue present, not to the size or firmness. Dense breasts have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and less fatty tissue.1 While you can’t tell whether your breasts are dense from looking at them or feeling them, it is still important for each woman to know the normal look and feel of her breasts. If you notice any changes in your breasts, you should visit your GP.
Most women know if they have dense breasts.
According to a nationally-representative survey commissioned by Pink Hope that explored women’s awareness, or lack thereof, regarding breast density, three quarters (79.4%) of women over the age of 50, who were at increased risk of developing breast cancer, didn’t know or were unsure as to whether or not they had dense breasts.2
Most women know that dense breasts can obscure a lesion or lump on a mammogram.
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.2
Radiologists always include breast density information in the mammogram report.
In the USA, 28 (56%) states have adopted a mandatory breast density notification requirement since 2005 and Federal legislation is pending.1,3 However, in Australia, there is currently no requirement for breast density to be provided on mammogram reports.4 That means that it is not always included in the mammogram report and it is up to you and your doctor to ask that this information be included in your mammogram report. You and your doctor can then use this information to help plan a breast cancer screening approach that is most suited to your individual needs.
There is nothing you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk if you have dense breasts.
The best way to deal with the increased risk associated with having dense breasts is not to try to reduce your breast density, but to talk to your doctor about a breast cancer screening program that suits your individual needs. While standard 2D mammograms may be less accurate in women with dense breasts,5,6 3D mammography is a newer technology that helps to eliminate most detection challenges associated with standard 2D mammography in a diagnostic setting.5,6 3D mammography has been shown to detect approximately 40% more invasive breast cancers and reduce the need for unnecessary further testing by up to 40%.5,6 This means two simple things: earlier detection than ever before and less anxiety about unnecessary further testing.7,8
References: 1. American Cancer Society. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/risk-and-prevention/breast-cancer-risk-factors-you-cannot-change.html. Accessed November 2017. 2. Pink Hope PureProfile Consumer Survey. August 2017. 3. Freer PE. Radiographics 2015;35:302–15. 4. BreastScreen SA. Breast density Information for consumers. Available at: http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/6e1a80804e78310ebd28fdc09343dd7f/Breast+Density+Consumer+Information-v3_FORMATTED.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=6e1a80804e78310ebd28fdc09343dd7f. Accessed September 2017. 5. Skaane P et al. Radiology 2013;267:47–56. 6. Friedewald S et al. JAMA 2014;311:2499–507. 7. Rose S et al. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2013;200:1401–8. 8. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2013. BreastScreen Australia monitoring report 2010– 2011.Cancer series no. 77. Cat. no. CAN 74. Canberra: AIHW.
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