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7th June 2023 Breast Cancer

The best way to communicate the cancer risks of breast density

Wendy Ingman

Do you know if you have dense breasts?

Would you want to know, if it means your risk of developing breast cancer is higher?

Dense breasts are common and normal, however they do increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Plus, dense breasts make cancer more difficult to detect in a mammogram – like trying to find a polar bear in a snow storm.

Breast density can’t be determined by how breasts look or feel, it can only be determined by a mammogram.

Associate Professor Wendy Ingman (pictured above) from the University of Adelaide and Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research is pioneering breast density research thanks to long-term funding from Australian Breast Cancer Research, a charity of The Hospital Research Foundation Group.

Her research has helped to improve access to breast density information so women can make informed decisions about how to manage their breast cancer screening and breast cancer risk.

“There is the potential for a woman’s cancer to be missed at a screening mammogram if they have high breast density,” A/Prof Ingman said.

“Doctors have a duty of care to notify their patients about issues that are significant to them and will affect their decision making.”

Research has shown that women would prefer to know their breast density, however work needs to be done on the best way to sensitively communicate this news to help ease any anxiety or stress.

The Hospital Research Foundation Group is proudly supporting a member of A/Prof Ingman’s team, Dr Avisak Bhattacharjee (pictured here) to work on this critical communication step.

Dr Bhattacharjee said a study of 300 women showed 40% had never heard of the term breast density before, and 80% wanted to be informed of their density status.

“If a woman suddenly knows that she has extreme breast density, she might become anxious and worried about developing breast cancer. This research will identify the best way to communicate about breast density to reduce anxiety and make women breast aware,” Dr Bhattacharjee said.

Learn more about breast density here:

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