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Keep Abreast of Density

Jaime Simes – Breast Kept Secret – Published on October 29, 2017

Hi! I am Jaime from Breast Kept Secret (BKS), an organisation developed in consultation from experts in the field of breast cancer and breast density, to help women become more informed on issues of breast health in Australia and New Zealand.

What is Breast Density?

Breast density. It is not something you can feel through touch, it can only be picked up by a specialist doctor (radiologist) through a mammogram. Women with high breast density are 2-6 times more likely to develop breast cancer. But not only are they at higher risk of developing breast cancer; any cancer is harder to detect as fibrous and glandular tissue also appear white on a mammogram. So early stage cancer cells can effectively be hidden in dense breasts.

If you and your doctor are aware you have dense breast you can be referred on to supplemental screening such as an ultrasound, giving you the best opportunity for early detection. At Breast Kept Secret we believe knowledge is power – and so BKS has been established as an online space promoting awareness and education of breast density.

My motivation

I became involved because I have extremely high breast density, and also I believe in the power of awareness in the early detection of breast cancer. My Mum passed away last year after a long battle with metastatic (secondary) breast cancer. I was grieving, feeling lost and there was a big hole left by her absence, I felt compelled to honour Mum and I needed a distraction. I knew I had a cause, Breast Density awareness.

My hope for Breast Kept Secret and my involvement is to make women aware that breast density exists, how it can affect them and what they can do about it. It’s all very well to tell women they need to know their density, but we need to also support them with the right information about how they can find out, and then what to do. This is my next agenda!

The power of knowing

Volpara Solutions, who originally commissioned BKS, have created software that provides an objective measure of breast density. Once a woman has a mammogram the radiologist can use the Volpara’s software to provide a breast density score. Once a woman knows her density it empowers her to be able to make important decisions about her breast health and explore personalised screening options.

So why is there a decision to be made? Women with high breast density have an increased risk of developing cancer just by having dense breast tissue and because dense breast tissue can make it harder to see a cancer on a mammogram.

If you are reading this information for the first time you may react like I did. I felt I should have known this information already. I felt angry that it had been kept from me. I wanted to know all I could and what I could do about it!

So why don’t we know?

This is the million-dollar question. In my opinion, there has been reservations to spread this information nationally for fear of scaring people. I get that! You can’t hand someone important information about them and not give them a plan to deal with it and that’s the problem, there are no national guidelines to handle high breast density.

If women don’t know then they won’t ask questions. If we don’t ask questions, then there won’t be reform. Currently, the standard guidelines are for women to have a mammogram at 50 and I support mammograms as the best form of screening for Breast Cancer, BUT for those with high breast density those guidelines need reviewing.

To achieve change there needs to be a voice that will be heard, and that voice is US WOMEN!

Change requires persistence, so until there is change this is at the top of my agenda.

Be informed, join the Breast Kept Secret Facebook page here.

And check out the website, to share the secret.