If you’ve undergone a mammogram, you may have received a letter or report from your physician indicating you have dense breasts, meaning that your breasts have a high proportion of fibrous or glandular tissue and relatively little fatty tissue. While that fact alone is not cause for concern, high breast density does increase your risk for breast cancer. Here are five facts to know about breast density:
1. Having dense breasts is normal
About half of women ages 40 to 74 have dense breasts, according to a study published in the “Journal of the National Cancer Institute.”
2. Your mammography provider is required to give you a breast density report
If your mammography provider is located in South Carolina, by law the provider must give you a report on your breast density. More than half of U.S. states have mandatory breast density notification laws.
3. Breast density may vary over time
The density of your breasts is influenced by many factors including diet, weight loss or gain, hormones and age. When these factors fluctuate or change, the density of your breasts may also change.
4. Breast density cannot be determined by a physical exam
Breast density does not correlate with the firmness of your breast, so a physical exam cannot give you this information. The only way to determine if you have dense breasts is to undergo a mammogram, ultrasound or MRI.
5. The benefits of 3-D mammography
3-D mammography can help clinicians evaluate dense breasts. In fact, the type of mammography offered through Tidelands Health has earned FDA approval as superior to standard 2-D mammography for routine cancer screenings of women with dense breasts.
“3-D has been proven to detect more invasive cancers,” says Tidelands Health radiologist Dr. John Hungerford. “Also 3-D mammography can reduce the number of call-backs for additional testing, which potentially saves some women the difficulty and expense of having to get more tests.”
Not all health care providers offer 3-D mammography like Tidelands Health, so make sure you inquire with your care provider to see if that service is offered.
If you are concerned about your breast density, talk to your physician. He or she can provide guidance on mammography options and your risk of breast cancer.