Women on the beach
July 14, 2016 | by The Polyclinic

More than 135 per 100,000 women will get breast cancer in Washington state.

This research estimate puts our state above the national average and consistently among a group of states with the highest known incidence of breast cancer.

Do you know your risk factors for breast cancer?

Risk Factors You Can Change

  • Weight
  • Diet
  • Exercise

Risk Factors You Can Not Change

  • Age
  • Race
  • Family health history
  • Hereditary genes
  • When you start and stop menstruation
  • Type of breast tissue

Therefore, regular screening mammography remains the best way to detect breast cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages and reduce breast cancer deaths.

To inform women of one of the breast cancer risk factors, breast density notification legislation has been passed in numerous states including Oregon and California. In these states, women who have dense breast tissue on mammogram are sent a letter of notification. These letters typically include language stating dense breast tissue can hide small abnormalities, may increase the risk of breast cancer, recommend supplemental screening, and inform patients to contact their physician. There is proposed legislation in the state of Washington (Senate Bill 50-40), which if passed will mean women in our state will receive a similar notification letter if they have dense breast tissue.

In Washington state, 75 percent of women ages 40 and older reported having a mammogram within the past two years. Approximately 50 percent of these women will have breast tissue that is classified by the interpreting radiologist as either heterogeneously dense or extremely dense. This means half of all women over age 40 should receive this letter.

Why is it important to understand a breast density risk factor?

  1. Cancer risk. Compared to average breast density, women with heterogeneously dense breast tissue have 1.2 times greater risk and those with extremely dense breast tissue will have 2.1 times greater risk.
  2. Masking effect. Mammogram sensitivity is diminished by dense breast tissue. The sensitivity can be decreased by 7 percent in heterogeneously dense breast tissue and by 13 percent in extremely dense breast tissue.

What if I find out I have dense breast tissue?

Patients who have dense breast tissue on a mammogram should receive a breast cancer risk assessment. This should be performed by a physician with experience selecting and interpreting the various breast cancer risk models or can be performed by a cancer risk assessment program. Patients with a lifetime risk greater than 20 percent or 10-year risk greater than 5 percent should receive annual breast MRI in addition to mammography.

Schedule Your Mammogram

  • To schedule a mammogram at The Polyclinic, call 206-860-5496 and select option 1.
  • To schedule an appointment at our Hereditary Cancer Risk Clinic, call 206-860-5586.

Saturday Mammography Appointments Available

You can now schedule your mammogram on Saturdays at Madison Center (8 am - 4:30 pm).

3D Mammography: A Breast Screening Tool for Dense Breasts

At The Polyclinic Breast Imaging Center we utilize tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, for both screening and diagnostic mammograms. Tomosynthesis provides highly detailed imaging for improved clinical evaluation and diagnosis. We also offer breast MRI and have the ability to perform MR-guided breast biopsies. (It is recommended that breast MRI’s should only be done in facilities able to perform the MR-guided breast biopsy if indicated.)

Get Your Risk Factor Questions Answered

At The Polyclinic Hereditary Cancer Risk Clinic, we can answer questions you may have about your mammogram findings. We will assess your individual risk for breast cancer and make the appropriate recommendations for individualized screening and risk reduction strategies. Patients found to be high risk should have supplemental screening, in addition to annual mammograms.