Throughout the month of October, breast cancer awareness month aims to raise awareness of this disease.
Regular mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early. But if your mammogram report says that you have dense breast tissue, you may be wondering what that means.
Dense breasts are not diagnosed by physical exam but by mammograms. It is very common, occurring in about 40% of women. For most women, the breasts become less dense with age.
Women who have dense breasts often times need additional radiological testing such as a 3-D mammogram, ultrasound or MRI.
A 3-D mammogram is also known as tomosynthesis, and is often time recommended for those with dense breasts. This imaging combines multiple breast x-rays to create a three dimensional picture of the breast. Although commonly done, it is still unclear whether 3-D mammography reduces the risk of dying of breast cancer. It does however reduce the need for follow-up imaging, and detects slightly more cancers than a standard mammogram alone, particularly in women with dense breasts.
At this time, experts are unsure if additional tests should be done in women who have dense breasts. Studies have shown that breast ultrasound and MRI’s can help detect some tumors that are not seen on mammograms. Unfortunately, these tests have a lot of false positive readings leading to unnecessary biopsies, and often times not covered by insurance.