Dense Breast Is Not A Valid Diagnosis

patient and doctor

Radiologists don’t have consensus over the definition of “dense breasts

Radiologists don’t have consensus over the definition of “dense breast”, according to a recent study. Because tumors are harder to see in this type of dense tissue, women with dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer. Around half of the states require that physicians inform women if they have dense breasts.

The authors of the study revealed that this determination might vary, depending on the individual doctor. Part of the findings show that the assessment of dense breasts is subjective. Dense breasts are taken into consideration for breast cancer screenings, but it’s not the only thing that’s weighed in.

Experts looked at about 200,000 mammograms performed on 145,000 women, aged 40 to 89 between 2011 and 2013. The mammograms were then evaluated by 80 radiologists. Overall, nearly 37 percent of mammograms were rated as “dense”. However, it was hard to make an average, as some doctors rated nearly all breasts as dense, while others, next to none.

Women with dense breasts have a 50 percent increased risk of cancer than women with normal density. There are several other factors which influence breast cancer risk: age at first period, the age of birth of the first child, and having relatives who have breast cancer.

The paper shows the differences between breast density measurement and density laws. It’s not meant as a guideline, though.

After all, women should not be concerned by the results of the study. Dense breast tissue is a description, not a diagnosis. The mammograms are subject to human error and subjective interpretations. In the future, automated methods which are currently under development will probably be more reliable.

In many states, women have other “supplemental” screening options. These include breast ultrasound, digital tomosynthesis or MRI. To date, there’s no consensus within the medical community as to how to address this issue optimally. There simply isn’t enough evidence on the advantages and disadvantages of alternative screening options.

More and more centers are using 3-D computer models to interpret mammograms. This may help give a more accurate rating. Breast density is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s got some importance, but it also comes with a degree of subjectivity.

Currently, there is no federal legislation introduced on treating breast cancers.

Image Source – Wikipedia