Question: At my recent annual mammogram I was told that I have dense breast tissue. What does this mean exactly? Should I be worried?
“Dense breast tissue refers to the appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram, not the way your breast actually feels,” said Olga Efimova, MD, PhD, a radiologist at MelroseWakefield Imaging. “Dense breast tissue can make breast cancer screening more difficult and it increases the risk of breast cancer.”
Dr. Efimova answers five common questions about dense breast tissue.
What is dense breast tissue?
Having dense breasts means that your breasts are made up of more breast tissue and connective tissue compared to fat. When this situation prevails, the breast appears dense on a mammogram and is harder to see through than less dense breasts.
Is it normal to have dense breasts?
Nearly 50 percent of women over the age of 40 have dense breast tissue. You may be more likely to have dense breasts if you are younger, have a lower body mass index or take hormone therapy for menopause.
Why does it matter?
Dense breast tissue can mask potential cancer that may go undetected by traditional mammogram.
It also mildly increases the risk of breast cancer. If it is discovered that you have dense breasts, speak with your physician about your breast cancer risks and any additional breast cancer screening tests, such as 3D tomography.
Massachusetts breast density law.
In 2015, Massachusetts state law made it a requirement to notify women found to have dense breasts on a mammogram, notifying them of the finding and the potential implications. Although there are no specific or special recommendations or screening guidelines, it is information that patients should review with their physician.
What is the best screening for dense breast tissue?
Traditional mammography is still a very effective screening tool. In recent years, 3D tomography imaging has been shown to offer advantages in detecting breast cancer in a dense breast tissue.
Make a plan with your physician to get the best results from your annual mammogram.
To schedule your annual mammogram, please call 781-338-7111. MelroseWakefield Imaging offers day, evening and weekend appointments.