What Women in BC Should Know about Breast Density
Do you know if you have dense breasts? No worries, if you don’t. When Dense Breasts Canada surveyed 900 women across Canada, women in British Columbia knew less about their breast density than women in other provinces. Why is that? The answer is simple: unlike many other provinces, British Columbia does not share information about a woman’s breast density. When you have your mammogram, a radiologist assesses and records your breast density, but this important piece of your breast health is never told to you or your family doctor. Does it matter? Yes, it really does matter! If you have dense breasts, you need to know. Here’s why.
What are dense breasts?
- Dense breasts are common and normal. 40% of women over age 40 have dense breasts.
- Dense breasts have more glandular tissue than fat.
- Only the radiologist who reads your mammogram can determine your breast density.
You can’t tell density by size or touch. Lumpy breasts are not the same as dense breasts.
Why it matters if you have dense breasts:
- Dense breasts are the number one reason for cancer being missed by mammography.
Up to 50% of cancers are missed in women with dense breasts because they are obscured: both dense tissue and cancer appear white on mammograms. Radiologists compare it to finding a snowball in a snowstorm. As a result, there can be a delay in a cancer diagnosis and a worse prognosis for women with dense breast tissue.
- Dense breasts are an independent risk factor for breast cancer. Cancer is 4-6 times more likely in women with the densest breasts.
- Dense breasts are an even greater risk factor than having a family history of breast cancer.
How you can easily find out your breast density:
- You are entitled to all information on file about your health. The link below takes you to a form called: Request For Access to Records.
- Under the section ‘Details of Requested Information’ write:
“I want to know my breast density as marked by the radiologist who read my screening mammogram.”
- Anyone can witness your signature. Mail or fax the form to the BC Cancer Agency, Screening Mammography Program. You will get a prompt response mailed to you. There is no charge. It only takes a minute and may make a difference to your life.
What to do if you have dense breasts:
If you learn you are in Category C or D, you have dense breasts. Your mammogram may not be enough. Speak with your doctor about your density and any additional risk factors.
A growing body of research demonstrates that additional screening, such as ultrasound, can increase detection of early stage cancer in women with dense breasts.
It did for us!
Early detection of cancer is critical because it leads to less invasive treatment and improves outcomes.
Until there’s a cure, find it small.
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