Why Aussie Women are Frustrated Over Breast Screen Inequity

17 Sep 2018 by Krystal Barter

In early 2018, Pink Hope launched a breast density hub that was the first of its kind in Australia. The Pink Hope powered website, bedenseaware.com is aimed at providing women and healthcare professionals with crucial information that could save lives.

In short, breast density is a term used to describe breasts that have less fatty tissue and a larger amount of fibrous and glandular tissue. This breast tissue make-up can only be seen on a mammogram.

Awareness of a high breast density is important because it carries certain risk factors that could be life-threating, like obscuring a lump on a standard 2D mammogram or making you more susceptible to breast cancer.

The issue with current Australian mammogram screening lies with an unsatisfying fact: women are not being told if they have dense breasts when they are being screened.

Considering over two million Aussie women live with dense breasts, this is an affront to the current Australian screening standards. The only state with an exception to this is WA, who introduced the change last year.

WA is now the only state in the country that routinely advises women of their breast density – a move that highlights, more than ever, the need for national reform to ensure no woman is left unaware of her breast cancer risk.

Pink Hope has been active in the campaign for national action on breast density and believes women are right to feel that the current national stance is not good enough.

Armed with the right information, the two million Aussie women living with dense breasts would then be able to consider the personalised screening options appropriate for them – such as ultrasound and 3D mammography – to manage their breast cancer risk.

Pink Hope’s research reveals that a staggering 80% of Australian women remain unaware, or are unsure that 2D mammograms are not effective in detecting many cancers in women with high breast density. Currently in Australia, outside of Western Australia, 2D mammograms are the standard of breast screening care.

Despite Pink Hope’s extensive advocacy efforts, there is still much to be done. Density awareness has increased in the past 12 months, (70% in 2017 vs. 80% now) however it’s still not enough. Pink Hope is asking the Federal Government to intervene on state-by-state approach and act NOW to ensure all women- not just those in WA- are advised if they have dense breasts. Nine in ten women believe this should already be happening.

Women across the country expect to receive the best care and knowledge from their healthcare providers and without the knowledge of if they have dense breasts, they aren’t properly assessing their risk and could be avoiding the alternate life-saving screening options.

Australian breast screening standards are lagging further and further behind when compared to the rest of the world. For example, 74% of states in the USA have adopted a mandatory breast density notification requirement while many more states currently have pending bills. This issue is urgent and Pink Hope refuses to let Australia drag its heels on breast density any longer.

At Pink Hope, we believe that breast density is not a “one size fits all” approach. It is up to healthcare providers to make sure that a patient has all information presented in order to make the most informed decisions regarding her personal health. Giving her knowledge, will additionally give her the appropriate decision-making power.

For more information on breast density and Pink Hope’s advocacy efforts, visit www.bedenseaware.com 

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