Telling women they have dense breasts could save lives, says cancer survivor

Most women aren't routinely informed if they have dense breasts, but the condition can mean cancers are less likely to show up on mammograms. Kathy Kaufield, a cancer survivor and advocate, wants doctors to be mandated to tell women.

Dense breasts are a bigger risk factor than family history, says advocate

Kaufield was diagnosed with breast cancer six months after a mammogram gave her the all-clear. (Submitted by Kathy Kaufield)
Listen16:18

Read story transcript

Doctors could save lives by telling women about their breast density, according to a cancer survivor and advocate.

"Dense breasts are an even bigger risk factor than family history, and women don't know about it," said Kathy Kaufield, a former political reporter who launched the campaign #TellMe.

When breasts are dense — where more than half the breast tissue is glandular or fibrous, as opposed to fatty — cancers are less likely to show up on mammograms. That contributes to a risk factor that most women don't know about, and doctors aren't mandated to tell them.

"This is information about our bodies that we should be told," Kaufield told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. "It's like not telling me that I have high blood pressure."

Dense breast tissue can obscure cancer in a mammogram image. (Submitted by Dense Breasts Canada)

Kaufield was diagnosed with breast cancer — a tumour the size of a golf ball — six months after a mammogram gave her the all-clear. She said that if she had known about breast density as a risk factor, she could have been more vigilant with self-exams.

Her online campaign #TellMe aims to make it mandatory for doctors to inform women if they have dense breasts. Her work has made breast density notification an issue in the New Brunswick provincial election, while Health P.E.I.has pledged to look into it the issue.

Kaufield joined The Current's Tremonti and White Coat, Black Art's Dr. Brian Goldman to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


Produced by Julie Crysler.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.