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Why Breast Density Matters


I assumed I used to be doing the whole lot proper. I by no means missed my annual mammogram. I did self-exams, ate wholesome, and had no recognized threat elements for breast most cancers. But, sooner or later I felt a lump. I wasn’t notably anxious. I had not too long ago had a “regular” mammogram, which didn’t detect something. Then I used to be despatched for a diagnostic mammogram, which additionally didn’t detect something. However an ultrasound the identical day revealed the heartbreaking information: I had breast most cancers. Why didn’t it present on the mammograms? It was then that I used to be advised that I had extraordinarily dense breasts and the not-so-small, not-so-early-stage most cancers was hidden by the dense tissue. I had by no means earlier than been advised I had dense breasts, by no means been advised that breast density elevated my threat for breast most cancers, by no means been advised that breast density vastly reduces the effectiveness of a mammogram, and, sadly, by no means been advised that further screening instruments had been obtainable which could have detected my most cancers at an earlier stage.

Mammography is more practical in detecting cancers in some ladies than others. For girls with dense breasts, most cancers usually grows unseen on mammography and subsequently, further screening could also be wanted.

Key Info:

  • Dense breast tissue is widespread: 40% of ladies age 40 and over have dense breasts.
  • Breast density is set via a girl’s mammogram and described as one among 4 classes relying on the quantity of breast tissue compared to fats within the breast.
  • Most cancers is 4 instances extra prone to develop in ladies with extraordinarily dense breasts than in ladies with fatty breasts.
  • Although mammograms discover some cancers not seen on different screening assessments, in dense breasts, mammograms will miss as much as 40% of the cancers current.
  • In dense breasts, different screening assessments, reminiscent of ultrasound or particularly breast MRI, along with mammography, considerably improve detection of early-stage breast cancers.

Why does breast density matter?

Dense breasts improve each the chance of creating breast most cancers and the danger of that most cancers being missed by mammography.

Dense breast tissue exhibits up as white on a mammogram, whereas fatty tissue is darkish grey. Sadly, cancers additionally show as white on a mammogram. If there may be a whole lot of dense tissue on a mammogram, a most cancers may be “hiding” among the many dense tissue. That is true even when the mammogram was carried out with 3D/tomosynthesis. On the lookout for a most cancers in a dense breast has been in comparison with on the lookout for a snowball in a blizzard.

In dense breasts, a “regular,” “unfavourable,” or “benign” mammogram doesn’t essentially imply most cancers just isn’t current. Irrespective of how current your final mammogram, a lump or any modifications in your breast needs to be dropped at the eye of your well being care supplier.

Along with hiding most cancers, breast density can be one among many recognized threat elements for breast most cancers. The higher the density of the breast tissue, the upper the danger for creating breast most cancers.

How is breast density decided?

When you’ve got your mammogram, your breast density is rated as one among 4 classes:

  • Class A – Fatty                                                                                                                       
  • Class B – Scattered areas of fibroglandular density
  • Class C – Heterogeneously dense
  • Class D – Extraordinarily dense

Breasts that are Class C – Heterogeneously dense, or Class D – Extraordinarily dense, are thought-about to be “dense” breasts.

How do I do know if I’ve dense breasts?

Typically, this data will likely be offered to you by your well being care supplier, who could have acquired it from the power that carried out your mammogram. It could even be included within the letter you obtain after your mammogram is carried out. Many states (38 and the District of Columbia), now have legal guidelines that require some degree of details about breast density be included within the letter ladies obtain after their mammogram. Nevertheless, the legal guidelines fluctuate from state-to-state. To study the reporting necessities in your state, please see the legislative map on DenseBreast-info.org.

Early detection issues, so be an knowledgeable self-advocate. All ladies ought to know their breast density and particular person threat elements, focus on the advantages and dangers of further screening with their well being care skilled, and pursue further screening if applicable for them, to make sure the earliest stage analysis doable.


Further sources

Patient Video Series: Let’s Talk About Dense Breasts

Concerning the writer:

JoAnn Pushkin is government director of DenseBreast-info.org. The web site, cited because the “most modern and complete useful resource” on the subject, is the collaborative effort of world-renowned breast imaging consultants and medical reviewers.

Pushkin’s initiative and advocacy served as inspiration for New York State’s Breast Density Inform legislation. On the federal degree, she continues to guide efforts for a single nationwide “density” reporting commonplace via each the introduction of the Federal Breast Density and Mammography Reporting Act, in addition to the FDA’s Mammography High quality Requirements Act regulatory modification consideration.

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