New effort aims to increase breast density awareness among Hispanic women

The breast health organization Are You Dense? released two new resources for Spanish-speaking women to learn about their breast health and breast cancer screening options. The organization’s partnership with Madre Latina, called EMPOWERED, encourages Hispanic women in general to be the “ambassadors of [their] own lives.”

The Spanish information sheet and Spanish-English YouTube video, uploaded Sept. 11, aims to teach women about breast density and how difficult it can be to see cancer in mammograms of women with dense breasts. (Some estimates say 40 percent of women have dense breasts.) Plus, dense breast tissue can itself be a risk factor for breast cancer, the information sheet says.

Are You Dense? Director and Founder Nancy M. Cappello, MD, explains in the video how dense breasts can obscure cancer in mammograms.

“Cancer appears white on a mammogram, and so does density, so there’s no contrast. It’s like looking for a polar bear in a snow storm,” she said.

And that’s why women should speak to their doctors about other preventative screening methods such as ultrasounds or MRIs, according to the information.

A Spanish-speaking breast cancer survivor also explains her experience in the video, encouraging other Hispanic women to advocate for their own health and to find out if they have dense breasts and what that could mean for breast cancer screening.

That information on screening could be especially important for Hispanic women, as the American Cancer Society says breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for Hispanic women in the U.S.

The video explains that Hispanic and African-American women aren’t getting the early-stage cancer diagnoses they need to catch the disease early enough for proper treatment, possibly because they don’t know how to talk to their doctors about prevention. Cappella said this program will hopefully help fill in some of those education gaps, according to a statement from Are You Dense?

Twenty-eight states now require doctors to inform their patients if they are found to have dense breast tissue, including Connecticut, where Cappello pushed for the policy change, according to the statement. However, there is some disagreement about whether this is actually a helpful practice or if it just increases alarm among patients without significantly contributing to better screening, since research shows mammogram-reading radiologists tend to interpret breast density differently.