Dense breast tissue can lead to challenges in detecting breast cancer
LONDON, ONT. -- Shock is what 75-year-old Barbara Moscovich felt when doctors told her she had not one, but two cancerous tumours in her breast.
"I’ve been fortunate to not have had any diseases or ever being in the hospital so I would be considered healthy for my age so for this to happen it seemed totally unreal."
Moscovich has had annual mammograms that never showed an issue, however, she found out she has dense breast tissue and that makes it hard to see the tumours with routine screening.
"A lot of women are totally unaware that they are at a higher risk of cancer and that the mammograms miss almost 50 percent of the cancers found in dense breasts."
Three years ago the Breast Care Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital added contrast enhanced mammography as an additional tool to its screening. This newer method can detect tumours a lot easier especially in women with dense breast tissue.
"It’s not an invasive procedure and they give you an injection of the dye and the dye turns the tumours black," says Moscovich.
It’s the enhanced contrast mammography that detected her tumours and she’s since had a successful double lumpectomy.
"If the patient is diagnosed with breast cancer it’s very easy for her to see the findings, to see what it is and to see how big it is," says Dr. Anat Kornecki, Breast Radiology Lead at St. Joe’s.
"It’s also very easy for the surgeon to see that and for the surgeon to talks to the patients about the possibilities and the outcomes after the surgery.”
However, this method is not used as routinely as a regular mammograms and Kornecki feels the province needs to consider increasing funding towards contrast enhanced mammography, especially for women with dense breast tissue.
"What we can do about it is push and push and push for the acknowledgement that we need a supplementary form of screening for patients with dense breasts in addition to regular mammography," says Kornecki.
Moscovich agreed, stating she believes contrast enhanced mammography is what saved her life.
"Anything that we can do to prevent cancer and catch it at the earliest stage is ultimately life saving but also for the government, cost saving."