Recommended screening for women with dense breasts
At this time, there are no special recommendations or screening guidelines in Australia for women with dense breasts. If a doctor has concerns about a cancer being masked on a mammographic image because of high mammographic density, they may recommend additional screening - such as a breast ultrasound, 3-D mammography (tomosynthesis) or MRI. It is important to note that there may be an additional cost for this screening.
Currently, mammograms are still the only screening method proven to reduce the risk of death from breast cancer in women over the age of 50. However, alternative screening methods – including breast ultrasound, breast MRI, and breast tomosynthesis (each in combination with mammography) - are being studied to learn whether they improve survival in women with dense breasts compared to mammograms alone.
You also need to be mindful that BreastScreen Australia does not offer breast ultrasound and MRI screening. MRI and ultrasound are more costly, with no or limited Medicare rebates. This means there can be significant out of pocket costs, and a substantial chance of a ‘false positive’ – a finding on the imaging that requires investigation but turns out to be nothing.