What you need to know about… BREAST DEN­SITY

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - B+S -

It’s been mak­ing head­lines as a risk fac­tor for breast can­cer, so here’s a round-up of the re­search and of­fi­cial ad­vice. Who has dense breasts? Less than 8 per cent of women have highly dense breasts, which make it harder to de­tect can­cer in a mam­mo­gram. Is it a risk fac­tor for breast can­cer? Yes, but there’s no con­sen­sus on how big a risk fac­tor it is. One re­cent study said that a woman with highly dense breasts has dou­ble the risk of get­ting can­cer than a woman who doesn’t. The Breast Can­cer Net­work Aus­tralia ( BCNA) lists gen­der, age, fam­ily his­tory and ge­netic mu­ta­tion as key risk fac­tors. How’s it mea­sured? Here’s where it gets tricky. Ex­perts are still de­bat­ing the best way to mea­sure it, so lev­els of breast den­sity may vary de­pend­ing on the ra­di­ol­o­gist, the BCNA says. It’s not some­thing that can be felt or seen in a phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion. Can den­sity change? Yes, ac­cord­ing to early re­search. In­flam­ma­tion can in­crease it, a re­cent an­i­mal study from the Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide shows. Anti-in­flam­ma­tory treat­ments are thought to re­duce den­sity, but that’s still to be proven. Will my mam­mo­gram re­port it? Maybe. WA is the only state to cur­rently list den­sity on all mam­mo­gram re­ports. The Breast Screen pro­grams in other states may do it on re­quest. Talk to your GP if you want it tested. I have high den­sity… now what? Con­tinue to get mam­mo­grams as they’re the gold stan­dard of screen­ing. Your GP will help you de­cide if you also need an ul­tra­sound or MRI. And, as al­ways, be breast aware with reg­u­lar self-checks.

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