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Home » Innovations » How Dense Breasts Can Affect Your Cancer Screenings

Ann Hill

Breast Cancer Survivor

Sue Peters

Breast Cancer Survivor

Dr. Susan Peddle

Radiologist, The Ottawa Hospital

All breasts are composed of fat, fibrous tissue, and glands, but the amount and distribution of each component is unique to each woman. Dense breasts have over 50% fibrous tissue and glands, and over 40% of women have them.

It is crucial for women to know whether they have dense breasts or not — dense breasts carry an increased risk of breast cancer. 2D mammograms’ accuracy for detecting cancer in dense tissue can also be reduced because unlike fatty tissue, “both cancer and dense tissue appear white on a 2D mammogram,” explains Dr. Susan Peddle, radiologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

“My doctor told me I had dense breast tissue,” says patient Ann Hill. “Unfortunately, he didn’t tell me anything else — like the risks associated with it.”

Although breast density (which is divided into four categories) is reported on all mammograms, patients do not receive the same information across the country, and there is a discrepancy in how patients are notified and informed.

Breast density diagram

Innovative testing

3D mammography is a ground-breaking technology that creates 3D pictures of the breast from a series of 2D images, allowing for more complete screenings and greater diagnostic confidence.

“3D mammography has been shown to increase cancer detection rates and is an excellent tool, in particular for women with scattered (ACR B) and heterogeneously dense (ACR C) breasts,” says Dr. Peddle.

“I’m confident that my Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma wouldn’t have been detected with 2D mammography,” says patient Sue Peters, who has borderline dense breasts. “Because it was detected early, my treatment was minimal.” 

Improving patient access 

The Hologic 3D Mammography™ exam is the only mammogram that’s FDA-approved as superior to standard 2D exams for routine screening of women with dense breasts.3,9 While Sue Peters had easy access to a 3D mammogram screening in Alberta, Ann Hill did not have that chance in Ontario. Canadian women need equal access to novel diagnostic technologies.


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