Women with dense breasts welcome additional screening

November 27, 2012

A survey of women undergoing routine screening mammography found that many of them would be interested in pursuing additional screening tests if notified they had dense breast tissue, despite the possibility of false positives, invasive procedures, and out-of-pocket costs, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"Our study highlights the need for patient education regarding breast density," said Jafi Lipson, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif.

Recent studies have found that dense breast tissue is a strong for breast cancer. Breasts are composed of fat and fibroglandular tissue. Dense breast fibroglandular tissue appears white on a mammogram. Abnormalities and tumors also appear white on mammograms, causing them to be difficult to spot in until the cancers are much larger and possibly in advanced stages.

"We hope this study raises awareness that dense breast tissue is a risk factor for breast cancer and that , including automated whole- and contrast-enhanced mammography, are available to aid in screening women with dense breasts," said Haatal B. Dave, M.D., M.S., at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

For the study, Drs. Lipson and Dave surveyed 105 women undergoing mammography at an outpatient radiology clinic. The women were asked if they knew their breast density and were informed about the association between higher breast density and increased risk of breast cancer. Women were then asked a set of questions about whether or not they would be interested in additional screening tests, such as automated whole-breast ultrasound or contrast-enhanced mammography, if they found out that they had dense breasts.

Of the 105 women surveyed, 76 percent were unaware of their breast density. Forty-two percent of the women had dense or extremely dense breast tissue. A majority of the surveyed women showed interest in the additional screening, despite the chance of increased false positives, invasive biopsy procedures and potential out-of-pocket expense.

Dr. Dave noted that educating the general public about the association between breast density and risk is important, but that supplemental screenings are a matter of some debate in the medical and political realms. She added that many states do not require insurance companies to cover the cost for supplemental tests due to the lack of evidence of their mortality benefit.

Currently five states, including Connecticut, New York, Texas, California and Virginia, have passed bills that require radiologists to inform women of their if they are found to have dense breast tissue. In 2011, a similar bill was introduced on a national level, and more than 10 other states have legislation pending. Only Connecticut and New York require health insurance companies to cover the cost of supplemental screening exams for women with dense breast tissue.

Explore further: Automated breast ultrasound dramatically reduces physician interpretation time

Related Stories

Automated breast ultrasound dramatically reduces physician interpretation time

May 3, 2012
Automated breast ultrasound takes an average three minutes of physician time, allowing for quick and more complete breast cancer screening of asymptomatic women with dense breast tissue, a new study shows.

The role of fat in assessing breast cancer risk

October 26, 2011
It is known that a high proportion of dense breast tissue, as seen with a mammogram, is associated with a high risk of breast cancer. But the role of non-dense fat tissue in the breast is less clear. New research published ...

Annual mammography with screening ultrasound may benefit women at increased risk of breast cancer

April 3, 2012
The addition of a screening ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to annual mammography in women with an increased risk of breast cancer and dense breast tissue resulted in a higher rate of detection of incident ...

Doctor tells FDA to change rules; says mammogram won't spot cancer in some

November 7, 2011
A woman's mammography results should tell her if she has dense breasts, so that she'll know the test may miss a breast cancer diagnosis, a Ridgewood, N.J., radiologist told a federal advisory panel on mammography Friday.

Breast density tied to specific types of breast cancer

July 27, 2011
Women with breasts that appear dense on mammograms are at a higher risk of breast cancer and their tumors are more likely to have certain aggressive characteristics than women with less dense breasts, according to a study ...

Recommended for you

Immune cells the missing ingredient in new bladder cancer treatment

July 24, 2017
New research offers a possible explanation for why a new type of cancer treatment hasn't been working as expected against bladder cancer.

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

How CD44s gives brain cancer a survival advantage

July 19, 2017
Understanding the mechanisms that give cancer cells the ability to survive and grow opens the possibility of developing improved treatments to control or cure the disease. In the case of glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.