Do You Know How Dense Your Breasts Are?
No, it doesn’t mean how heavy or firm your girls are. Breast density actually has to do with the tissue in your breasts and how that shows up on a mammogram.
Breast density is a way to describe the makeup of a woman’s breasts. Dense breasts contain more breast tissue than fatty tissue. Women who have dense breasts have an increased risk of breast cancer. Younger women tend to have dense breasts. As women get older, their breasts become less dense. Dense breast tissue can look white or light gray on a mammogram. Cancer can also look white or light gray. Because of this, dense tissue can “mask” or “hide” a cancer from view on a mammogram. The questions below can help you gather information about breast density so that you can make the right choices for you.
How do I know if I have dense breasts?
Breast density can only be determined by mammograms. It is not related to breast size or firmness. You may think that because your breasts are firm, they are dense; but breast density is not determined by how your breasts feel.
When the radiologist looks at your mammogram, they determine your breast density. There are four categories of breast density. They go from almost all fatty tissue to extremely dense and very little fatty tissue. The radiologist decides which of the four categories (below) best describes your level of breast density.
If your mammogram report says that you have dense breast tissue, talk with your doctor about what this means for you. Be sure that your doctor knows your medical history and whether there is anything in your history that increases your risk for developing breast cancer.
Currently, experts do not agree what other tests, if any, should be done in addition to mammograms in women with dense breasts. My recommendation is that women speak to their doctors. Ask if your breast tissue is considered dense, and if so, would you benefit from additional testing such as: 3D mammogram (digital tomosynthesis), breast ultrasound, breast MRI.
Women who are already in a high-risk group (based on gene mutations, a strong family history of breast cancer, or other factors) should have an MRI along with their yearly mammogram.
Why is breast density important?
Having dense breast tissue may increase your risk of getting breast cancer. Women who have dense breast tissue (3 or 4) have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women with less dense breast tissue (1 or 2).
Many states, including California, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia now have laws that require radiologists to contact a woman if her breasts are dense. Where does your state stand?
Be informed about your breast density! Learn more at: cancer.org