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Breast Density Matters

Dense breasts can decrease the effectiveness of a mammogram and increase your risk for breast cancer. There are steps you can take to minimize your risk. Know and understand your breast density. 

Why your breast density matters.

The denser the breast, the higher the risk of getting breast cancer.

Having dense breasts is a greater risk factor than having a family history of breast cancer.

Mammograms miss about 50% of breast cancers in the densest breasts.

4 breast English

There are 4 categories of breast density.

Category C and D are considered “dense breasts” with over 50% density. Dense breasts are common and normal. In fact, 43% of women ages 40+ have dense breasts.

Dense breasts make it harder to see cancer.

Dense breasts make it harder for radiologists to spot cancer. On a mammogram, dense breast tissue shows up as white and so does a cancerous tumour.

Mammograms are a highly effective tool for women with fatty breasts, but mammograms alone are not enough for women with dense breast tissue. If you have dense breasts, you may want to discuss additional screening, such as ultrasound with your doctor/nurse practitioner.

I wish someone had told me I had dense breasts.

So what's the fuss?

How to Find Out Your Breast Density

How you can find out your breast density in your province.

If you have had a mammogram, here’s how you can find out your breast density in your province.

BRITISH COLUMBIA:
Breast density notification was implemented on Oct.15, 2018. You will be informed of your breast density category in your mammogram results letter: A, B, C or D. Category C and D are dense breasts. If your mammogram was prior to Oct.15, 2018: You can find out your density by using this “Access to Information” form
http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/…/SMP_Form-SMPRequestForAccessToR… Under “Requested Info" write: “I want to know my breast density category."

News: Screening ultrasound is now covered under MSP for women with dense breasts, if the healthcare provider provides a requisition. In Vancouver, screening ultrasound is available at: X-Ray 505, Downtown Radiology, North Shore Imaging, and other clinics.


ALBERTA:
Your healthcare provider receives a report that has a description of your density in words or letters, Category A, B, C or D. You can ask your provider what your report says. Alberta is working on formalizing direct breast density notification for all women. The mammogram report will be included in personal health portals in the near future as well.  Currently, there are clinics in Alberta, such as Mayfair, Canada Diagnostics, EFW, Pureform Radiology and MIC Medical Imaging that offer screening ultrasound to women with dense breasts, paid for by Alberta Health Services.  It is your choice where to get screened.


SASKATCHEWAN:
Breast density notification was implemented for women with >75% density in Nov. 2018.
You will be informed of your density category in your mammogram results letter ONLY if your density is over 75%. You will be asked to return annually for a mammogram. Your healthcare provider is also told if your density is over 75%. However, dense breasts refer to breasts with 50% and over dense tissue. Women in the 50-75% category are not told they have dense breasts because this information is not recorded. We continue to advocate, and if you would like to express your concern about the withholding of information from women in the 50-75% category, please contact the Health Minister, The Honourable Jim Reiter: He.minister@gov.sk.ca


MANITOBA:
Breast density notification began June 20, 2019 for women with > 75% density. The information is included in your mammogram results letter ONLY if your density is over 75%. Your healthcare provider will also be told if your density is over 75%. However, dense breasts refer to breasts with 50% and over dense tissue. Women in the 50-75% category are not told they have dense breasts because this information is not recorded.


ONTARIO:
You will be informed by mail of your density only if your density is over 75%. You will be asked to return annually for a mammogram. Your healthcare provider will also be told if your density is over 75%. However, dense breasts refer to breasts with 50% and over dense tissue. Women in the 50-75% category are not told they have dense breasts because this information is not recorded. However, some radiologists in Ontario now describe the density category in words on the cover letter sent to the healthcare provider. Please ask your provider if your density is discussed. We continue to advocate in Ontario and if you would like to express your concern about the withholding of information from women with dense breasts in the 50-75% category, please contact the Health Minister: The Honourable Christine Elliott
Christine.elliott@pc.ola.org


QUEBEC:
Your mammogram report sent to your healthcare provider has a description of your density in percentages. Every report has the density. You will NOT be notified directly but you can find out your density by asking. The density information is on the third line of the report. Women with over 75% density and a family history are offered screening ultrasound. We continue to advocate for direct notification and if you would like to express your concerns about the withholding of information, please contact The Health Minister, The Honourable Danielle McCann
ministre.responsable@msss.gouv.qc.ca


NOVA SCOTIA:
Exciting news! Breast density notification will roll out across Nova Scotia beginning in October 29, 2019. You will be informed of your breast density category in your mammogram results letter: A, B, C or D. Category C and D are dense breasts. If your mammogram was prior to October 29, 2019, contact NBSP at 902 473 3960 or 1 800 565 0548 for information on how you can request your breast density.


NEW BRUNSWICK:
The government has committed to breast density notification for all women and it is expected to begin later in 2019. Currently, your mammogram report sent to your health care provider has a description of your density in words or percentages. To learn your density, you can ask your healthcare provider what the report says. If you prefer to access your health record on your own you can submit one of the forms below to Vitalite or Horizon Health Network.

Horizon Patient Request Form
Vitalite Patient Request Form

Health Records | Fax Numbers & Addresses


PEI
Great news! The government has announced breast density notification for all women effective Jan 2020. This information will be in the results letters mailed to women. The government has committed to screening ultrasound for women with over 75% density (Category D).


NEWFOUNDLAND/LABRADOR:
You are not provided with any information. Your healthcare provider is notified if the breast density is over 75%. Women with over 75% density are asked to return for an annual mammogram. However, dense breasts refer to breasts with 50% and over dense tissue. Women in the 50-75% category are not told they have dense breasts because this information is not recorded. We continue to advocate, and if you would like to express your concern about the withholding of information from women in the 50-75% category, please contact the health minister hcsminister@gov.nl.ca


NWT and YUKON
You are not provided with any breast density information. Your healthcare provider is notified if the breast density is 75% and over. Women with dense tissue in the 50-75% category are not told they have dense breasts because this information is not recorded. In NWT, women with over 75% density are asked to return for annual mammograms.

Get the Facts. Why the 2018 Guidelines on Breast Cancer Screening are misleading and dangerous.

Click to read what's wrong with the guidelines and sign the petition.

In December 2018, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care issued guidelines on breast cancer screening for women of average risk. These guidelines are used by 36,000 family doctors in their interactions with 9 million women aged 40-74.  

Here’s how the guidelines put women’s lives at risk:

1.  The guidelines ignore expert advice: There are no breast cancer experts on the Task Force. They consulted experts, but ignored their input. At this point, over 130 breast cancer experts have strongly criticized the guidelines. 

2.  The guidelines ignore the importance of screening for women in their 40s: One sixth of breast cancer deaths and 24% of the years of life lost to breast cancer are in women diagnosed in their 40s. Even with statistics like these, the Task Force does not recommend screening for women in their 40s. As a result, 4,000 Canadian women will die over the next decade if this recommendation is followed.

3.  The guidelines advise against breast self-exams: These exams are an important measure women can take to increase early detection of breast cancer, especially in women with dense breasts.

4.  The guidelines exaggerate the harms of recalling women for additional testing after a mammogram: About 10% of women are recalled for additional images and this may cause anxiety. The Task Force considers this anxiety a harm and uses it to dissuade women from screening. The anxiety is not long lasting. Better safe than sorry.

5.  The guidelines ignore significant health benefits of early cancer detection: The Task Force does not acknowledge the benefits of avoiding chemotherapy, avoiding mastectomy and avoiding lymphedema.

6.  The guidelines ignore current data: The Task Force relies on outdated and flawed studies. The obsolete studies estimate that women are 15-20% less likely to die if they have breast screening. Current studies show that women who have mammograms are actually 40-44% less likely to die of breast cancer than those who do not.

7.  The guidelines ignore the risks of breast density: The risks of dense breasts have been known for 40 years. Dense breasts increase the risk of developing breast cancer and increase the risk that cancer will be masked on a mammogram. The guidelines ignore the benefits of supplemental screening for women with dense breasts.

8.  Women are being asked to make decisions about life-saving screening based on inaccurate information: Using the new guidelines women may make decisions that may ultimately lead to a late diagnosis, unnecessary suffering and a poorer prognosis.

All Canadians should be outraged by these guidelines. Canadian women and their family doctors deserve to have accurate information about the benefits of screening.

Please sign and share this petition. Tell Health Minister Petitpas-Taylor that the new screening guidelines for breast cancer must be rejected because they are dangerous and will cause loss of life. 

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