PEI

Know your breast density, women counselled

Women need to know more about their own bodies when it comes to breast cancer diagnosis, says a woman lobbying on P.E.I.

High breast density can make cancer diagnosis more difficult

Dr Jean Seely recommends that women should know their breast density. (Radio Canada)

Women need to know more about their own bodies when it comes to breast cancer diagnosis, says a woman lobbying on P.E.I.

Sharon MacNeill is calling for more information and screening options for women with dense breasts. Dense breasts have more glandular and fibrous tissue, which can make it harder for radiologists to see cancer.

Sharon MacNeill would like to see the use of both mammography and ultrasound in breast examinations become more common. (Maggie Brown/CBC)

MacNeill said many women don't know their breast density, and what that could mean when it comes to their risk of getting breast cancer.

"Even in the metastatic breast cancer community — I belong to a group of about 200 women, I would say of that group, these are women with metastatic advanced stage, advanced breast cancer, they have terminal diagnosis — about 40 per cent don't yet know their breast density," said MacNeill.

Besides being informed of their breast density, MacNeill would like mammography and ultrasound used when screening women with dense breasts for cancer. That is not the standard practice in Canada.

More work to be done

Dr. Jean Seely, head of breast imaging at the Ottawa Hospital and a member of the working expert group for breast imaging for the Canadian Association of Radiologists, said the evidence isn't there yet to change how breast cancer is diagnosed.

"We just don't have the data yet that shows that we're improving outcomes," said Seely.

"We are starting to get some evidence that shows that the benefit of using screening ultrasound and mammography in women with the most dense breasts is detecting more breast cancers, at early stage, which is very, very good."

Seely agreed women should be informed of their breast density.She said that there is some evidence that suggests women with dense breasts have an increased risk of breast cancer.

No one from Health PEI was available to talk about breast density and screening on the Island.

With files from Island Morning

now