Do you know your breast density? Higher density may be linked to increased risk of breast cancer, according to experts at Mediclinic
11 October 2020| Last updated on 12 October 2020
Breast cancer ranks high in causing cancer-related death in women, both in the United Arab Emirates and globally
One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Therefore, population-based screening and preventative measures for early detection, which could reduce morbidity and mortality, are needed.
Imaging, in addition to a clinical breast exam, is an important part of breast cancer screening and detection. Standard guidelines recommend standard 2D mammography or tomosynthesis for all women, with adjunct breast ultrasound for women with dense breasts.
There is also increasing data to suggest that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could be a valuable addition for screening women who are at an increased risk for developing breast cancer.
In 2004, a patient from Connecticut, USA, was diagnosed with stage 3c breast cancer, despite her eating healthy, exercising daily, doing monthly breast self-exams, having no family history of breast cancer, and being screened yearly with mammograms.
Why did her mammogram not detect her cancer?
It was due to her dense breast tissue, said an expert at Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai.
Dense breast tissue decreases the sensitivity of detecting breast cancer on mammograms alone.
Breast density is also an independent risk factor for developing breast cancer, with up to a 1.4 x chance compared to women with low-density breasts. Unfortunately, she was not informed of this risk, and was not aware of the option of an ultrasound as an additional screening tool.
What is breast density?
Breast density refers to the amount of fibroglandular tissue in a breast relative to fat.
It can significantly vary between individuals and within individuals over a lifetime. If more than 50% of your breasts are composed of fibroglandular tissue, you have dense breasts.
Approximately half of women undergoing mammography have dense breasts.
Image credit: The American College of Radiology
Why do we care about breast density?
- Breast density can limit interpretation of mammograms
- Breast density is an independent risk factor for breast cancer
- Women should know their breast density to make better informed decisions
- Additional screening modalities (ultrasound and possibly magnetic resonance imaging) can detect more cancers in dense breasts
Breast cancer is unfortunately an all too common disease, but by being aware and educated on our breast health, risk factors, and tools available for early detection, we can empower ourselves to achieve a world without breast cancer.
Please speak to your doctor about your breast health, and ask your radiologist about your breast density the next time you have your screening mammogram.
Mediclinic City Hospital’s Breast Centre provides compassionate comprehensive breast health services in Dubai under one roof.
To book a consultation at Mediclinic's all-women Breast Centre, simply call or click to contact below.
Compiled by Dr. Dana Haddad, Consultant Breast Radiologist
Dr. Dana Haddad
Consultant Breast Radiologist
Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai