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Breast density debate continues

BCNA News 12 Oct 2018

BCNA was part of the recent Why Study Mammographic Density conference, which saw health professionals and consumers engage in rigorous debate over the need to inform women of their breast density.

BCNA strongly believes that informed decision making leads to the best outcomes for our members and that people have the right to know the same information about their health that their doctors have access to.

It is the core reason why BCNA is calling upon policy and practice change so that all women are notified of their breast density, regardless of whether they are screened through BreastScreen or private practice.

BCNA acknowledges the complexities around this and that more research is needed to advise women on their individual associated risk and what screening method may be best for them. However we do not believe women should have to wait for the experts to reach agreement on these issues. Women want to be informed now.

Women are being asked to trust a system that withholds important information about breast density that is evident in their mammogram. Our members who are diagnosed with cancer close to the time of a screening mammogram are devastated to learn they have dense breasts and that this may have prevented detection.

Women tell us that knowing they had dense breasts empowered them to make decisions around the choice of breast surgery. Sometimes mastectomy and reconstruction is a preferred option to worrying about follow up imaging with routine mammogram that didn’t detect their cancer.

As stated in the State of the Nation Report, BCNA rejects the argument that informing women of their breast density may cause more harm than good. Surely this is something for a woman and her health professional to discuss together. At BCNA we have recently reported on 20 years of consumer advocacy in our State of the Nation report and it is disappointing that here we are in 2018 still fighting for women to be informed.

In summary, BCNA’s position is to advocate for:

* extension of the WA BreastScreen policy that advises women with dense breasts that their screening mammogram is less sensitive to cancers and they should therefore be vigilant in looking for breast changes

* improved Medicare rebates for women with dense breasts who need additional screening options including breast MRI

* development of clinical practice guidelines for the management of breast density

* greater research into links between density and breast cancer risk.

We are supportive of the Commonwealth funded CCA project into exploration of a personalised screening program. We are calling for this project to reach its recommendations within a much shorter time frame than the terms of reference of the project.

In addition, we have a seat at the table on a number of breast density projects. Our role will be to ensure the consumer perspective is included and that women continue to have trust in the system in which they are cared for.