Are your breasts dense?

Project Plan

Women between the ages of 18 and 40 are invited to have their breast density measured. It is completely safe, painless and takes 20 minutes from start to finish. Participants will only be given individual results where this information may be beneficial to health and wellbeing.

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.

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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.

Your Support

What would I have to do for the study?

Women between the ages of 18 and 40 are invited to attend a 20-minute 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. 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. At the end of the appointment you will be asked to complete a one-page Acceptability questionnaire to tell us what you thought of the entire experience.

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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