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Breast density a risk factor for cancer

Oct 31, 2017

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Tumours in dense breasts not always visible on mammograms

Dr. Martin Yaffe, a senior scientist in the Odette Cancer Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute, commented on breast density and breast cancer screening in an article published by the Toronto Star. Breasts that are very dense make it difficult for radiologists to spot tumours on mammograms because they are camouflaged within tissue. According to experts, women with the densest breasts are twice as likely as women with average density to develop breast cancer.

Women in Ontario who are between the ages of 50 and 75 years, and who have had a mammogram are notified by mail if their breast density is 75% or higher. These women are called back for a mammogram yearly, as opposed to every two years, which is the Ontario Breast Screening Program’s standard.

Yaffe says that because it is harder to detect tumours in women with dense breasts using mammography, doing more frequent exams “is not the right answer.” Instead, he says that women need to be informed of their risks, including breast density, and advocate for their own health.

» Read the full story in the Toronto Star

» Read about Yaffe’s whole-mount pathology technique, which aims to improve accuracy of diagnoses