What you should know about breast density

Jul 28, 2014

What is breast density? 
Breast tissue can be fatty, fibrous/glandular, or a combination of both. The more fibrous tissue you have, the more dense your breasts are. A mammogram is the only exam that determines breast density. A radiologist classifies breast density into one of four categories:

A. Almost entirely fatty
B. Scattered areas of fibroglandular density

C. Heterogeneously dense
D. Extremely dense

Dense breast tissue is relatively common and found in more than 40% of women.
Images from the American College of Radiology. 


Why should I know if I have dense breasts?
Dense breast tissue can mask signs of cancer, making it more difficult to identify abnormal tissue on a mammogram. Cancer on mammography is a white spot or white dots. A dense breast has a white background. Finding a white spot or white dots is harder on a white background than on a gray background. A radiologist’s ability to identify breast cancer decreases by 10% to 20% in a dense breast utilizing digital mammography.

What if I have dense breasts?
Cancer can still be identified on mammograms even if you have dense breast tissue. At Suburban Imaging and The Breast Center of Suburban Imaging, mammograms are interpreted by specially-trained radiologists – breast imaging experts. Your breast density is noted in your mammogram results, and results are also given to your primary healthcare provider. For most women, breast density is not a major cancer risk factor. If you have additional risk factors for breast cancer, you and your healthcare provider may discuss the addition of other screening exams or testing. You should continue to have an annual screening mammogram regardless of your breast density.

Dr. Wood, Dr. Abeln and Dr. Olsen are radiologists at The Breast Center of Suburban Imaging.

More information on breast density is availble at our website.

Category: Breast Cancer

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