Why Breast Density Matters

1 year ago 280

I thought I was doing everything right. I ne'er missed my yearly mammogram. I did self-exams, ate healthy, and had nary known hazard factors for bosom cancer. Yet, 1 time I felt a lump. I wasn’t peculiarly worried. I had precocious had a “normal” mammogram, which didn’t observe anything. Then I was sent for a diagnostic mammogram, which besides didn’t observe anything. But an ultrasound the aforesaid time revealed the heartbreaking news: I had bosom cancer. Why didn’t it amusement connected the mammograms? It was past that I was told that I had highly dense breasts and the not-so-small, not-so-early-stage crab was hidden by the dense tissue. I had ne'er earlier been told I had dense breasts, ne'er been told that bosom density accrued my hazard for bosom cancer, ne'er been told that bosom density greatly reduces the effectiveness of a mammogram, and, unfortunately, ne'er been told that further screening tools were disposable which mightiness person detected my crab astatine an earlier stage.

Mammography is much effectual successful detecting cancers successful immoderate women than others. For women with dense breasts, crab often grows unseen connected mammography and therefore, further screening whitethorn beryllium needed.

Key Facts:

  • Dense bosom insubstantial is common: 40% of women property 40 and implicit person dense breasts.
  • Breast density is determined done a woman’s mammogram and described arsenic 1 of 4 categories depending connected the magnitude of bosom insubstantial successful examination to abdominous successful the breast.
  • Cancer is 4 times much apt to make successful women with highly dense breasts than successful women with fatty breasts.
  • Though mammograms find immoderate cancers not seen connected different screening tests, successful dense breasts, mammograms volition miss up to 40% of the cancers present.
  • In dense breasts, different screening tests, specified arsenic ultrasound oregon particularly bosom MRI, successful summation to mammography, substantially summation detection of early-stage bosom cancers.

Why does bosom density matter?

Dense breasts summation both the likelihood of processing bosom cancer and the hazard of that crab being missed by mammography.

Dense bosom insubstantial shows up arsenic achromatic connected a mammogram, portion fatty insubstantial is acheronian gray. Unfortunately, cancers besides show arsenic achromatic connected a mammogram. If determination is simply a batch of dense insubstantial connected a mammogram, a crab tin beryllium “hiding” among the dense tissue. This is existent adjacent if the mammogram was done with 3D/tomosynthesis. Looking for a crab successful a dense bosom has been compared to looking for a snowball successful a blizzard.

In dense breasts, a “normal,” “negative,” oregon “benign” mammogram does not needfully mean crab is not present. No substance however caller your past mammogram, a lump oregon immoderate changes successful your bosom should beryllium brought to the attraction of your wellness attraction provider.

In summation to hiding cancer, bosom density is besides 1 of galore known hazard factors for bosom cancer. The greater the density of the bosom tissue, the higher the hazard for processing bosom cancer.

How is bosom density determined?

When you person your mammogram, your bosom density is rated arsenic 1 of 4 categories:

  • Category A – Fatty                                                                                                                       
  • Category B – Scattered areas of fibroglandular density
  • Category C – Heterogeneously dense
  • Category D – Extremely dense

Breasts which are Category C – Heterogeneously dense, oregon Category D – Extremely dense, are considered to beryllium “dense” breasts.

How bash I cognize if I person dense breasts?

Generally, this accusation volition beryllium provided to you by your wellness attraction provider, who volition person received it from the installation that performed your mammogram. It whitethorn besides beryllium included successful the missive you person aft your mammogram is performed. Many states (38 and the District of Columbia), present person laws that necessitate immoderate level of accusation astir bosom density beryllium included successful the missive women person aft their mammogram. However, the laws alteration from state-to-state. To larn the reporting requirements successful your state, delight spot the legislative map connected DenseBreast-info.org.

Early detection matters, truthful beryllium an informed self-advocate. All women should know their bosom density and idiosyncratic hazard factors, discuss the benefits and risks of further screening with their wellness attraction professional, and pursue further screening if due for them, to guarantee the earliest signifier diagnosis possible.


Additional resources

Patient Video Series: Let’s Talk About Dense Breasts

About the author:

JoAnn Pushkin is enforcement manager of DenseBreast-info.org. The website, cited arsenic the “most up-to-date and broad resource” connected the topic, is the collaborative effort of world-renowned bosom imaging experts and aesculapian reviewers.

Pushkin’s inaugural and advocacy served arsenic inspiration for New York State's Breast Density Inform law. On the national level, she continues to pb efforts for a azygous nationalist “density” reporting modular done some the instauration of the Federal Breast Density and Mammography Reporting Act, arsenic good arsenic the FDA’s Mammography Quality Standards Act regulatory amendment consideration.

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