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Breast Density

Health care providers are encouraged to review the following resources to support their understanding and conversations with patients regarding breast density.

Breast Density Discussion Guide

The Breast Density Discussion Guide was developed to support your conversations with patients about breast density topics, including a patient's BI-RADs assessment, breast density risk, and supplemental screening.

Coldman Report on Breast Density

The Coldman Report on Breast Density is an independent review that examines evidence, expert opinion, and BC Cancer Breast Screening Program data regarding breast density, breast cancer risk, and breast screening.

Breast Screening for Transgender Patients

The Breast Screening for Transgender Patients Provider Guide was developed to provide you with evidence-informed breast screening recommendations when caring for your trans, gender diverse and non-binary patients.

Patients Who've Received Mantle 


Mantle field radiotherapy (or mantle radiation) treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma is a known risk factor for secondary breast cancer. The estimated actual incidence approaches 35% by 40 years of age. This increased risk begins about 10 years after treatment.

BC Cancer recommends that all women who received mantle radiation for Hodgkin lymphoma adhere to the following breast cancer screening routine:

  • Annual breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) starting at age 30 or 10 years after radiation treatment until the age of 65.
  • Annual screening mammogram starting at age 30 or 10 years after radiation treatment until the age of 74.
Letters have been sent to former Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients who have had mantle radiation, to invite them to participate in this higher level of screening so that any potential secondary breast cancer can be found early when it can be most successfully treated. For more information on these breast screening recommendations or to discuss your patient’s treatment history with a health care professional from BC Cancer, please call us at 604-877-6292 or toll-free 1-800-663-3333, ext 676292. 

For more information on breast cancer screening for women who received mantle radiation for Hodgkin lymphoma please see the Fact Sheet.

Talking to Patients

Women may hear conflicting information about screening. It’s important for them to be aware of the benefits and limitations of screening mammography so that they can make an informed decision. The Screening Mammography Decision Aid is available to support women in making an informed decision to screen for breast cancer using mammography.

Just the facts

  • The strongest risk factor for breast cancer is being female and getting older.
  • About 1 in every 8 Canadian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. 1 in 28 women is expected to die from the disease.
  • BC Cancer Breast Screening encourages eligible women to have a routine screening and sends reminder letters when women are due for their next screen.
  • The first mammogram is a baseline – returning regularly gives us the ability to compare images and find subtle changes that can occur over time.
  • Women can call 1-800-663-9203 directly to book an appointment.
  • BC Cancer Breast Screening has 36 fixed locations and 3 mobile services visiting over 120 communities across BC.

Benefits & Limitations

  • Mammograms save lives. Studies of screening programs around the world have demonstrated a 25% reduction in deaths from breast cancer among women who are screened.
  • Mammograms can usually find lumps earlier. Mammograms can show a breast lump 2 or 3 years before a woman or her primary care provider can feel it.
  • Detecting cancer at an early stage can make it easier to treat. Finding breast cancer early on may result in simpler treatment, more treatment options, and more positive outcomes.
  • Mammograms are not perfect. Factors like age and breast density may result in false-negative or false-positive mammograms.
  • Mammograms in younger women can be difficult to interpret. The dense breast tissue found in younger women can make it more difficult to find abnormalities.
  • Having a mammogram may lead to additional testing. Among women of all ages, about 7% of mammograms require diagnostic work, which may include more imaging and/or biopsy.
  • Most abnormal findings detected on mammograms are not cancer. While 9% of women will need further testing after a screening mammogram, only 0.4% of screening mammograms in the BC Cancer Breast Screening program result in a diagnosis of breast cancer.
  • Screening mammography cannot detect all cancers. Mammograms find 4 in 5 cancers but some cancers that are detected by physical examination may not be seen on the mammogram. These cancers are often too small or in an area that is difficult to view, such as the axilla.
  • Mammograms expose women to low-dose radiation. For most women, the benefits of regular mammograms outweigh the risks posed by this amount of radiation. 

Fast Track

Fast Track is a province-wide initiative aimed at reducing the time between an abnormal result and further testing. To speed up the process, BC Cancer Breast Screening sends results directly to the primary care provider (doctor, nurse practitioner, or naturopathic doctor) and facilitates the referral for the first round of diagnostic testing. Once complete, the diagnostic results are sent to the primary care provider.

Contact with the Fast Track centre will occur as soon as possible. Patients typically receive their diagnostic tests faster than patients not participating in the Fast Track program. There may be some fluctuation in wait times for diagnostic follow-up based on availability of appointments, workforce shortages, or patient availability but the goal is to complete any additional imaging in a timely manner. The Fast Track centre will contact the health care provider if unable to reach the patient directly.

  1. When your patient comes for a screening, she is told about the Fast Track system.
  2. You and/or your patient can choose a preferred clinic.
  3. If a preferred clinic is not selected, a default Fast Track clinic will be assigned. This is the closest Fast Track diagnostic imaging centre to the screening site; which is often the same location as the screening site.
  4. If further tests are needed (from an “abnormal”/recalled screen), BC Cancer Breast Screening faxes the Fast Track request with the BC Cancer Breast Screening report to the designated Fast Track centre. A copy is also faxed to the primary care provider's office.
  5. BC Cancer Breast Screening sends the images and the radiologist’s recommendation for further imaging work up to the designated Fast Track centre.
  6. BC Cancer Breast Screening sends a result letter and the name of the Fast Track centre conducting further tests on your patient to the health care provider.
  7. The Fast Track centre contacts your patient to book the diagnostic imaging tests, usually within 1 week. The Fast Track centre will contact you (primary care provider) if the patient cannot be reached.
  8. You will receive a diagnostic imaging report from the Fast Track centre. The imaging workup will conclude with 1 of 3 outcomes:
    • All is clear, patient can return to regular screening
    • Probably benign: under these circumstances, the woman is put on a “surveillance schedule” that may involve follow-up at 6 months, for 1 to 3 years
    • Recommend a biopsy, either percutaneous fine-needle aspiration or core biopsy, or open biopsy. If an open biopsy is recommended, you will be notified by phone or fax so that you can arrange referral for a surgical consultation.


SOURCE: Guidance ( )
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