Breast Cancer Awareness: What you should know about breast density

Oct 01, 2012

Breasts are considered dense if they primarily consist of fibrous or glandular tissue and little fatty tissue. Much like lumps, both benign and cancerous, dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram making it difficult to distinguish normal tissue from cancer. Current research suggests that women with dense breasts are at increased risk for breast cancer compared to women with fatty breasts.

When reading your mammogram, a radiologist assigns it to one of four categories of breast density. 10% of women in the U.S. have extremely dense breasts while another 10% have almost entirely fatty breasts. The remaining 80% of women are classified into one of the two middle categories. For most women, there is little to no decrease in density with age.

If you are classified as having dense breasts, it is recommended that you continue to have an annual mammogram. Although dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to see, many cancers continue to be found using the screening tool of mammography. For patients who have additional risk factors for breast cancer, ultrasound and MRI exams are available in addition to mammogram to aid in diagnosis. If you have any concerns, please discuss with your doctor which exams are right for you.

Regardless of your breast density, we recommend an annual mammogram starting at age 40.

For more information:


- Meghan R. McKeon, MD
Breast Radiologist
Medical Director, Fairview Southdale Breast Center


Category: Imaging Centers

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