Tag Archives: mammography

Does Having Dense Breasts Increase Your Breast Cancer Risk?

Photo courtesy of MorgueFile / Xenia
Photo courtesy of MorgueFile / Xenia

Does Having Dense Breasts Increase Your Breast Cancer Risk?
Breast density is a term that is used by the medical profession and it refers to the amount of fat and tissue in the breast, and this can be seen in a mammogram screening.  Dense breasts have more tissue than fat and younger women typically have breasts that are more dense.  As we age, however, our breasts become less dense, and after menopause, the breast tissue of most women is mainly fat.  The use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may cause women who take HRT to have higher breast density.
Breast Density and Breast Cancer Risk
You can find any number of articles on the Internet that take great pleasure in telling you that women who have denser breasts are at an increased risk for breast cancer, but ongoing research has been unable to prove why. 
I believe that the biggest problem is that for women with dense breasts, catching any cancerous activity via mammography is a very difficult thing to do.  Dense breast tissue and cancer both appear as white or light grey on a mammogram x-ray, making it nearly impossible for a radiologist to detect cancer – they say it’s kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack. 
Radiologists who are more proactive may provide density information to their patients, encouraging them to try other screening options like thermal imaging, ultrasound, or MRI.  Some states in the USA are actually passing laws that make it mandatory for women to be notified they have dense breast tissue after getting a mammogram, which I believe is a good thing.
What I find mystifying is that simply because dense breasts are more difficult to screen, that should not create a higher risk of breast cancer for their owner and yet that seems to be what the research is telling us.  According to www.cancer.gov: “It is not yet clear why breast density is related to a person’s risk of breast cancer, but there are currently studies aimed at finding a better method for assessing breast cancer risk using breast density.”
The latest bit of research I found comes to us via the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and is titled Benign Breast Disease, Mammographic Breast Density and the Risk of Breast Cancer which concludes that “Women with high breast density and proliferative benign breast disease are at very high risk for future breast cancer.”
If You Have Dense Breasts…
First of all, take a deep breath and don’t panic.  Until technology catches up with this issue, just know that there are many things you can do to protect yourself against breast cancer. There’s no magic pill but take the time to learn what you can do – be proactive.  I’ll help you.
In a recent review into breast cancer and lifestyle, the American Institute of Cancer Research estimated that at least 40% of breast cancer cases in the USA could be prevented if people made wiser lifestyle choices
Want to know what they are?  Sign up for my free newsletters, e-book and report on the right and I’ll share all of my research and tips with you on how to reduce your breast cancer risk.  Not sure you want to do that?  Check my Testimonials page for feedback from my subscribers.

Reduce Breast Cancer – Avoid Unnecessary Medical Imaging and HRT (And How To Do That)

reduce breast cancer avoid unnecessary medical imaging and hrt
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and renjith krishnan

Today I’m making an attempt to catch up (ha ha! as if!) on the stack of articles and medical research that has been piling up in my office and came across something interesting that I thought you’d want to know about.

It appears that the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation recently requested the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer.  Here’s a link to the full report.

I found it somewhat unbelievable that things such as phthalates, bisphenol A, industrial chemicals such as benzene, ethylene oxide, or pesticides like DDT could not be conclusively linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, but I will be avoiding them anyway, and I think you should too.  The IOM did acknowledge that more research into these areas was required.  Amen to that.

The Two Environmental Factors Most Strongly Associated With Increased Breast Cancer Risk

The IOM found sufficient evidence to conclude that the two environmental factors most strongly associated with breast cancer were:

  1. Exposure to ionizing radiation; and
  2. Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (which will be covered in a follow-up article).

The IOM’s conclusion that there was a direct connection between radiation exposure and cancer is consistent with a great many other bodies of research which indicate that exposure to radiation in the same range as used for computed tomography (CT-scans) will increase the risk of cancer.

75 Million CT Scans Performed Annually In The U.S.

The use of CT scans has increased nearly 5-fold over the last 2 decades – did you know that 75 million CT scans are performed every year in the United States alone?  SEVENTY-FIVE MILLION!  According to the IOM report, “Thought leaders in radiology are often quoted as estimating that 30% or more of advanced imaging tests may be unnecessary.”  You think?

The reasons for overuse are many:

  • the ease of conducting the exam;
  • the clear diagnostic images made possible;
  • strong financial incentives, reflected by the growing ownership of CT scanners by non-radiologists for use in their private medical offices;
  • strong patient demand, resulting partly from advertisements that do not mention adverse effects;
  • medical malpractice concerns which lead to defensive test ordering.


What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk from Medical Imaging

There are times when CT scans, x-rays and other forms of medical imaging are absolutely crucial, necessary and can be life-saving.  It is important, however, for us to enter into a dialogue with our doctors when making decisions about medical imaging.  You have every right to insist on the necessity and safety of all radiology scans that you undergo.  Make sure you understand the risks and benefits and ask your doctor to explain those risks and benefits fully before you say yes.

Here 6 Important Questions You Can Ask Your Doctor:

  1. Is this scan absolutely necessary?
  2. Are there alternative tests that could be done?
  3. How can I be assured that the test will be done the safest way possible?
  4. Will information from this scan change the management of my disease?
  5. Can/should I wait until after seeing a specialist before getting the scan?
  6. Is it necessary to do it now?

Isn’t it interesting that the very thing most doctors recommend for determining whether breast cancer has begun in a woman (mammography) is also responsible for increasing her risk?  There is another option!  See my article about thermal imaging.

My next article will cover natural alternatives to synthetic hormone replacement therapy.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.