Mar 29, 2024

An Australian study published in the February 2024 edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) questioned the narratives surrounding breast density notification, which sheds light on an evolving controversy regarding breast imaging practices. 

This discussion is pivotal as it intersects with significant regulatory changes, notably the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) amendment to the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) to mandate breast density notification starting September 10, 2024.

The study, led by Tessa Copp, PhD, from the University of Sydney, critiques the application of feminist health narratives by companies to influence women’s health decisions, particularly concerning breast density in cancer screening.

The discourse around breast density is complex.

So What’s the Deal?

On the one hand, high breast density is a known risk factor for breast cancer. It can obscure tumors on mammograms, creating a need for supplemental imaging like ultrasound or MRI for accurate detection. On the other hand, the BMJ study argues that promoting additional screenings through breast density notification may not be backed by solid evidence, potentially leading to increased anxiety, confusion, and unnecessary screenings among women.

The future implications of this debate for breast imaging practices require a nuanced approach to patient education, communication, and openness to possibly changing established strategies for delivering breast health care.

Essential Factors To Consider

  1. Informing patients about breast density must be balanced with clear, evidence-based guidance on the benefits and limitations of additional screening tests. This approach requires radiologists and healthcare providers to be well-informed and transparent, emphasizing patient autonomy and informed decision-making.
  2. The importance of continued research into the most effective strategies for breast cancer screening, particularly in women with dense breast tissue, will have to be addressed. Studies like those led by Karla Kerlikowske, MD, highlight the potential of technologies such as automated breast density assessment and digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) in improving risk assessment and screening outcomes. However, as the BMJ study suggests, promoting new technologies and tests must be critically evaluated for evidence of benefit.
  3. Healthcare providers should engage in a broader reevaluation of screening guidelines and practices. As understanding breast density’s role in cancer risk evolves, so too might recommendations for screening intervals, methods, and the integration of risk assessment tools.
  4. Adopting an atmosphere of openness is necessary to build a future with more personalized, risk-based screening strategies that optimize detection while minimizing harm from overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
  5. A delicate balance of evidence-based practice, patient-centered communication, and ongoing research to refine screening strategies is required to address these concerns and challenges.


The BMJ study’s criticism of current narratives around breast density notification poses an opportunity for the breast imaging community to begin exploring the challenging questions ahead and navigating through any issues that may arise.

Whatever the future holds, the ultimate goal remains clear: to enhance the early detection of breast cancer while minimizing unnecessary interventions, thereby improving outcomes for women worldwide.


Allegretto, A. (2024, February 16). Study on breast density notification narratives draws mixed reaction


Copp T, Pickles K, Smith J, Hersch J, Johansson M, Doust J, et al. (2024, February 14). Marketing empowerment: how corporations co-opt feminist narratives to promote non-evidence based health interventions. BMJ 2024 384(076710).