What a New Study Reveals About Breast Density Awareness

In a recent interview from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) conference, Mary Yamashita, M.D. discussed a variety of findings from a survey of over 8,000 women about breast density awareness, challenges with current breast density notification after mammography exams, and the ongoing need to educate patients as well as referring providers on breast density awareness.

Over 40 percent of women in the United States between the ages of 40 and 74 have dense breasts and a recent meta-analysis showed that women with extremely dense breasts have more than double the risk for developing breast cancer in comparison to women with average breast density.1,2

Yet a new study, based on a survey of over 8,000 women revealed a prevailing lack of breast density awareness. According to the study findings, which were presented at the recent Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) conference, approximately two-thirds of women between the ages of 40 and 59 were not aware of breast density. For women under 40 years of age, only 2.3 percent were aware of breast density, according to the study.1

In an interview at the RSNA conference, study co-author Mary Yamashita, MD said the study found significant differences in breast density awareness based on education level as well as disparities in awareness between Hispanic women and non-Hispanic White women. Differences in the content required for the 38 states that currently have breast density notification laws and challenges with understanding the notification language may have exacerbated the lack of breast density awareness, according to Dr. Yamashita, a Clinical Associate Professor of Radiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC).

(Editor’s note: For related video content, see “Current Insights on Breast Density, Contrast-Enhanced Mammography and Supplemental Breast Cancer Screening” and “Can AI Improve the Consistency of Breast Density Assessment by Radiologists?”)

While Dr. Yamashita says a pending national standard for breast density notification in early 2023 will be a welcome development, she emphasized that the breast imaging community needs to develop standard consensus recommendations for the use of supplemental screening (via whole breast ultrasound, breast MRI or contrast-enhanced mammography) based on risk stratification in women with dense breasts.3

For more insights from Dr. Yamashita, watch the video below.

References

1. Yamashita MW, Larsen LH, Sharek D, Bohm-Velez M, Mahoney T, Walker P. Density awareness: do patients know about breast density? Presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Annual Meeting. November 27-December 1, 2022. Presentation available at: https://dps2022.rsna.org/exhibit/?exhibit=M5A-SPBR-5 .

2. Hall J. What a new meta-analysis reveals about breast density, mammography and MRI screening. Diagnostic Imaging. Available at: https://www.diagnosticimaging.com/view/what-a-new-meta-analysis-reveals-about-breast-density-mammography-and-mri-screening . Published September 28, 2022. Accessed January 5, 2023.

3. Hall J. Mammography news: FDA says national breast density notification rule may be published in late 2022 or early 2023. Diagnostic Imaging. Available at: https://www.diagnosticimaging.com/view/mammography-news-fda-says-national-breast-density-notification-rule-may-be-published-in-late-2022-or-early-2023 . Published October 18, 2022. Accessed January 5, 2023.