What are dense breasts?
Breasts are made up of fat, ducts, glandular tissue, breast tissue, and connective tissue. Dense breasts have more breast and connective issue compared to fat. Less dense breasts have more fat compared to breast and connective tissue.
How do I know if I have dense breasts?
In Minnesota, and many other states, patients that receive a mammogram must be told if they have dense breasts. Breast density is diagnosed through medical imaging and can be broken into 4 categories ranging from extremely dense tissue to very little dense tissue. Both dense and non-dense breasts are common. In fact, about 40% of women have some dense breast tissue.
Why does breast density matter?
Simply put, it can be more difficult to see cancer on a mammogram image of a dense breast. Fatty tissue (which is more common in less dense breasts) looks black on a mammogram image. Dense breast tissue looks white. Abnormalities and cancers also appear white. Sometimes, abnormalities and cancers can “hide” behind the dense breast tissue. Those same abnormalities and cancers would likely be more visible against the black background of a less-dense breast.
Should I still get a mammogram if I have dense breasts?
Yes! Mammograms have been proven to save the lives of women with all types of breast density. Screening mammograms are the gold standard in early breast cancer detection. If you have dense breasts, talk with your doctor about secondary screening tests that can provide additional views of breast tissue, which may include Breast MRI, Breast Ultrasound, or Breast Tomosynthesis.
What else can I do to help prevent breast cancer?
Women of all ages should conduct a monthly self-breast exam. Breast health isn’t something to think about just once a year when you make your mammogram appointment. It’s important to check yourself regularly and tell your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.