The Athena Breast Health Network, a consortium of five University of California medical centers, has adopted the VolparaDensity breast density software from Volpara Solutions to identify patient risk and create a personalized screening approach.

Athena staff have developed a risk-based screening mammography program, which combines the current Athena questionnaire, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) testing, and the VolparaDensity software. Patients electing to participate in the program will receive a customized risk profile that will then be used to establish screening frequencies, with higher risk patients directed toward enhanced surveillance and prevention options. UCSF Medical Center will be the first location to implement the program.

“We need to gain a better understanding of breast cancer risk factors in order to continue to improve the breast cancer screening process,” said Laura Esserman, MD, founding director of Athena and director of the UCSF Franc Buck Breast Care Center. “Adding breast density to the standard risk assessment is critical to our ability to identify a woman’s specific risk and develop a customized screening and prevention plan.”

Breast density poses imaging challenges as well as its own health risks. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get cancer. In addition, since both dense tissue and cancer appear white on a mammogram, breast density reduces the sensitivity of mammograms, making screening difficult. Volumetric testing uses quantitative tools to generate an automatic measure of breast density and assign a density category according to the BI-RADS standards.

The Athena network encompasses UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, UCSF, the Graduate School of Public Health at UC Berkeley, and several public and private partners.