I have dense breasts, now what?

mgbc_dense-breasts-01If you have dense breasts, you most likely found out because you received a letter informing you of your dense breast tissue after your recent mammogram. These letters, which are required by law in 24 states, including Minnesota, are not uncommon. About 45% of women between the ages of 40 and 74 have dense breasts. Despite the fact that almost half of American women have dense breasts, it is not widely understood by the general public and the letter often leaves women wondering “now what do I do?”

First, Understand Breast Density

Breasts are made up of fat, ducts, glandular tissue, breast tissue, and connective tissue. Dense breasts have more breast and connective tissue compared to fat. Less dense breasts have more fat compared to breast and connective tissue. On a mammogram image, cancer appears white however, dense breast tissue also appears white and could obscure the cancer, leading to a missed diagnosis. Awareness is key! Knowing your breasts and your risk factors can help you and your doctor make informed decisions.

What To Do Next

Don’t panic! Dense breasts are common and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong. However, women with dense breasts do have an increased risk for breast cancer, due to the denseness possibly causing obscurity in the mammogram images, so be sure to talk with your doctor. Based on your breast density and other risk factors, you and your doctor can decide if additional medical imaging exams are right for you.

Additional Screening
The most common imaging exam ordered for women with dense breasts is a breast MRI. You and your doctor will decide if additional screening with a Breast MRI is right for you. This type of medical imaging exam uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create highly detailed images of the inside of the breast. Viewing MRI images together with mammography images can help your radiologist to identify any abnormalities.

Continue to Receive Your Annual Mammogram
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. All women are strongly encouraged to get an annual mammogram beginning at age 40 regardless of breast density. The Breast Center of Maple Grove makes it easy to get your annual mammogram. We offer extended hours for screening mammograms and can accommodate walk-ins as well as same day appointments.