June 30, 2017
If a recent mammogram showed you have dense breast tissue, you may wonder what this means.
Having dense breasts is actually a fairly common diagnosis.
Dense breasts are not reflective of how heavy and firm your breasts are to the touch, but how the tissue in your breasts appears on a mammogram. Women usually find out their breast density in their early 40s, as this is when they typically begin getting routine mammograms.
Breasts are made up of different types of tissue. Dense breasts are higher in fibroglandular tissue (a combination of connective and glandular tissue) and lesser in fatty tissue. There are different categorizations of breast density based on the percentage of fibroglandular tissue within the breast:
It's not clear why some women have a lot of dense breast tissue and others do not. You may be more likely to have dense breasts if you:
Doctors know dense breast tissue makes breast cancer screening more difficult and it may increase the risk of breast cancer, though it’s not known why. Dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to interpret a mammogram since cancer and dense breast tissue both appear white on a mammogram. Very dense breasts may increase the risk that cancer won't be detected on a mammogram. Sometimes additional imaging studies like an MRI, ultrasound or contrast-enhanced mammogram are recommended when mammograms are inconclusive or difficult to interpret.
Choosing an imaging center with advanced imaging technology and specially trained breast imagers reading your studies is essential. MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper offers advanced breast cancer screening and diagnostic services with four radiologists who specialize in breast imaging. The MD Anderson Cooper Breast Imaging Centers are certified as Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence by the American College of Radiology — an accreditation that exemplifies MD Anderson Cooper’s impeccable standards.
If you have dense breasts, you deserve a team of physicians and health care providers who can provide answers to any questions you may have and provide recommendations for ongoing monitoring. But having the right answers from a team you can trust will allow you to maintain an understanding of your body at a time when you might you might feel your body has control over you. Support from a knowledgeable team who cares can make all the difference in the world.
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper has developed a specialized Dense Breast Program designed for women who have questions or concerns about their dense breast diagnosis and who are looking for answers and recommendations for lifesaving breast cancer screenings.