Understanding Breast Density: Importance, Impact, and Our Approach

21 Feb 2024

Breast density stands out as one of the strongest independent risk factors for breast cancer.

A 2019 analysis conducted by Monash, examining BreastScreen Victoria data, revealed that 43% of nearly 17,000 women of screening age had dense breasts, with 12% of the study found to have extremely dense breasts. This classification, following the internationally accepted American College of Radiology standards, indicates an increased risk of breast cancer, and a decreased sensitivity of mammography.

The Significance of Breast Density

The composition of breasts, consisting of a combination of fatty and fibroglandular tissue, plays a pivotal role in mammogram results. The higher the proportion of fibroglandular tissue to fat, the whiter the mammogram images on the scan appear, resulting in a more dense breast classification. Women who are in the highest category of breast density for their age are at 4-6 times increased risk of breast cancer compared with women in the lowest category. Moreover, dense breasts may mask the detection of small masses during mammograms, potentially leading to delayed diagnosis. For this reason, breast density largely dictates the imaging modality recommended when undergoing breast screening.

Mammography at Imaging Associates Box Hill

Shifting Perspectives: Breast Density Reporting

While routine breast density reporting is not currently recommended by BreastScreen Australia (a position now being reviewed), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) has adjusted its stance. RANZCR now recommends expanding Australia’s free mammogram program to include reporting and assessing breast density. This evolving perspective aligns with the critical role breast density plays in breast cancer detection.

Imaging Associates Approach

At Imaging Associates, we recognise the critical importance of breast density in women’s screening. All mammograms performed at our clinics include a breast density report. We employ world-leading Volpara software for accurate and objective measurements, with the results incorporated into all mammography reports.

We were also the first site in Australia to offer Transpara “Artificial Intelligence”, technology that improves the detection of breast cancer on mammograms by acting as “an extra pair of eyes”. Studies show Transpara improves both sensitivity and specificity in radiologist reporting of mammograms.

We continue to lead in this area due to our continuous investment in advanced breast imaging technologies.

Highest Quality Mammography

If you require a mammogram, we have dedicated mammography clinics located in Mitcham and Box Hill (Melbourne, Victoria) and Wagga Wagga (New South Wales), all with minimal wait times for an appointment.

All our mammography clinics are equipped with the latest high-definition 3D mammography package (breast tomosynthesis), and the latest in high-definition synthetic “intelligent” 2D and 3D images. Contrast-enhanced mammography is also offered at our Mitcham and Wagga Wagga clinics.

The Imaging Associates team of highly specialised breast radiologists review and report on all mammograms directly after a patient’s scan, ensuring they are available to discuss patient cases with referring doctors.

Dr Daniel Lee reporting on a mammography scan.

Personalised Breast Imaging Screening

Understanding that every woman’s breast health journey is unique, we offer personalised breast imaging screening recommendations. Based on factors such as age, risk profile, and breast density, we formulate tailored screening plans, which not only make recommendations on timing but also breast imaging modalities that would be most suited to the individual.

This personalised service is offered at Imaging Associates Mitcham and Wagga Wagga. Our recommendations may include combinations of 3D mammography, breast ultrasound, contrast-enhanced mammography, and breast MRI. Patients can receive this service by getting the appropriate referral from their GP. 

Mitcham BreastCare

In a partnership between Mitcham Private Hospital and a group of local breast surgeons, we are also proud to be involved in the Mitcham BreastCare Rapid Referral Service.

This rapid, one-step comprehensive service enables patients to be seen by one of the team’s breast surgeons and have any further breast imaging and imaging-guided breast procedures (if clinically appropriate) within two working days of their referral, for an expert assessment of any breast problems.

Our important message is for women to check their breasts regularly. If you do notice an irregularity or change, you will need to see your GP immediately. After all, prevention is better than cure.

To book a breast imaging appointment with Imaging Associates at our Mitcham, Box Hill, or Wagga Wagga clinic, click the button below. 

Book a breast imaging appointment