Are your breasts dense?

Project Plan

Thank you for the overwhelming support for this study!  We have reached our target and are busy trying to fit everyone in before Christmas!  Watch this space for updates and hopefully ways to participate again in future.  Thanks again from the Breast Density Team!


Final Months!

We are now on our final recruitment drive and are looking for women between the ages of 18 and 40 to have their breast density measured – two different ways! Volunteers also have the option of having a full body DXA and receiving a report detailing their full body composition (muscle and fat %), bone mineral density, and visceral fat volume estimate.

What is breast density?

A woman’s breasts are made up of dense breast tissue and fatty breast tissue. It is typically measured using mammography but mammographic screening is not recommended to younger women (under the age of 40). Increased breast density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer in older women who have had mammographic screening but not much is known about breast density in younger women. This is why we are conducting this study. New methods of measuring breast density are needed to bridge large gaps in knowledge regarding breast density in younger women and its relation to later-life breast cancer risk. images-1

Measuring breast density

Our team has developed a novel way of measuring breast density that is completely safe, painless and quick! It has a fancy name – Transillumination Breast Spectroscopy – but we call it TiBS for short and it measures spectral differences in breast composition using visible and near infrared light. This is a pilot study with two main aims: to see if women think TiBS is an acceptable device to measure breast density and, to identify determinants of breast density in younger women. This study will also lay the groundwork for a potential larger, future study needed to understand how breast density changes over time and its relation to later-life breast cancer risk. We have recently expanded the study to include a second method of measuring breast density using Dual X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) which will provide comparison data for the TiBS breast density measurements. Women will also have the option of having a whole body DXA scan (in addition to the breast DXA scan) whereby a summary of their body composition and bone density can be provided upon request.

Your Support

What would I have to do for the study?

Women between the ages of 18 and 40 are invited to attend a 1-hour appointment at UWA Crawley Campus (free parking can be arranged). At the appointment you will be given an opportunity to answer any questions you have before signing a consent form, completing a short questionnaire, measuring your height and weight and finally, measuring your breast density using TiBS and then DXA. The short questionnaire will ask questions regarding age, alcohol use, smoking use, oral contraceptive use, reproductive history, and family history of breast cancer. The TiBS measurement involves sitting comfortably in an upright position wearing an open-fronted hospital gown in a dimly-lit room. A private changing area will be provided along with a clean hospital gown. Once seated, a trained research assistant will help you fit a cup over your breast ensuring contact and you will be expected to hold the cup for the duration of the scan which is less than 1 minute per breast. images-2 The DXA machine is like a large single bed and is located a short 5 minute walk (outside) from the TiBS location. The DXA measurement involves lying on your side (in your hospital gown) with one arm resting below your head and your breast rested on the DXA surface.  We will ask you to use your other hand to hold your other breast out of the DXA scanning path. No breast compression is used. After scanning one side, you will be asked to roll over and repositioned to scan the other breast.  Lastly, you will be asked to get up off the DXA machine, and then remount the DXA, and reposition for a second scan of the first breast. This repositioning is required to ensure quality control.  Scanning each side takes less than 2 minutes. DXA-Scan-Image-web If you opt to have a whole body DXA scan in addition to your breast density DXA scan (completely voluntary) you will be asked to lie flat on your back and remain still for approximately 7.5 minutes. At the end of the appointment you will be asked to complete a two-page Acceptability questionnaire to tell us what you thought of the entire experience.

Why should I help?

Breast density is a strong predictor of breast cancer risk in older women but not much is known about breast density in younger women. It is believed that breast density is largely a result of genetic factors but there are also environmental or lifestyle factors responsible for modifying breast density over time. Thus, there could be things that women can do at younger ages to prevent breast cancer later in life. Breast density anatomy TiBS is a new, safe, and easy method of measuring breast density that could be used in future to bridge the large gaps in knowledge regarding breast density in young women and its relation to breast cancer risk later in life. We need a large number of participants to make our study results accurate, so we hope that as many people as possible agree to be involved. Therefore, we would really appreciate your help in our study. If you choose to participate, your contribution will be invaluable and will provide important information to help further our knowledge into the origins of breast density and its potential as a risk factor for breast cancer later in life.
For more info please call 0439 919 564 or email us.

Project Members

Jennifer Stone
Project Leader
Professor Martha Hickey
Chief Investigator
David Sampson
Chief Investigator
Lothar Lilge
Associate Investigator
Christobel Saunders
Associate Investigator
Rachel Peake
Research Assistant