What you need to know about… BREAST DENSITY
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.