are your breasts dense

It is important for every woman to know her breast density because it impacts her breast cancer risk, as well as how well mammograms can detect breast cancer. The only way to know your breast density is by the results of your mammogram.

To make a mammogram appointment with Manatee Diagnostic Center, please call 941-747-3034.

What is breast density and how does it impact my risk for cancer?

Breast Density is a measure of the amount of breast tissue a woman has. The more tissue a woman has, the greater the density and the higher the risk of breast cancer.  However, in women with dense breast tissue, mammograms are not as effective in detecting the cancer. This is because both breast tissue and breast cancer will appear white on a mammogram and the lack of contrast makes identification of the cancer more difficult. 

Digital mammography is the standard to detect early curable breast cancer. Mammography is effective and is probably the most important reason that smaller more curable breast cancers are being detected and that the death rate from breast cancer is decreasing. However, the ability of mammography to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue is limited. 

The issue of breast density is important. Nearly half of all women in the United States have dense breast tissue. Women with dense breasts have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not.

Although breast density is loosely associated with age, nearly three-fourths of women in their 30s have dense breast tissue, as do more than a quarter of women in their 70s.

Below is an example of a mammogram from a woman with dense breast tissue and a large breast cancer. The dense tissue appears white, just as the tumor does, causing the breast tissue to mask the cancer. This is why more than one third of breast cancers are missed by mammography in women with dense breasts.

By comparison, below is an example of a breast cancer in a woman with non-dense breast tissue. The white tumor (circle) in the right breast is easily visible against the dark gray and black non-dense tissue.

Dense Breasts and Other Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers among women. According to the American Cancer Society, the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known family history, and only 5-10 percent of breast cancers are due to a genetic cause. That’s why screening for breast cancer is so important.

The most significant risk factors for breast cancer include being female and age. However, increased breast density is a strong independent risk factor for developing breast cancer. The reason it is so important for women to be aware of their breast density is that there are other approaches, in addition to mammography, which can help detect breast cancers which would not be seen with mammography alone such as Breast Ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Nurse Navigator is Here To Help

An Oncology Nurse Navigator is on call to offer you and your family personalized assistance from the moment you call or visit. Our Oncology Nurse Navigator helps schedule tests for patients and can help guide them and their families through healthcare decisions.

For more information or to make an appointment with our Nurse Navigator, please call 941-708-8330.