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Am I Dense?

If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard things about breast tissue density. And if you’re feeling a bit confused about how breast tissue density might affect you and your personal fight against breast cancer, you’re not alone. But in spite of all the chatter, the issue really isn’t as complex as it might seem. We’ll give you the bottom-line basics below.

  1. The breast consists of two types of tissue: fibroglandular tissue (which includes the glands that produce breast milk and the ducts that transport it) and fatty tissue.
  2. Dense breasts have more fibroglandular tissue than fatty tissue.
  3. Densities—concentrations of fibroglandular tissue—can make it more difficult for doctors to see abnormalities in a mammogram.
  4. Even if your breasts have mostly fatty tissue and, as a result, are not “dense breasts” per se, your breasts could still have areas of density that could affect the ability of doctors to see abnormal tissue in a mammogram in those areas.
  5. In addition to making abnormalities harder to see, research suggests that having dense breasts also increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
  6. Because densities make abnormalities harder to see in a mammogram, doctors may decide that women with dense breasts or areas of density may need supplementary screening tests in addition to the annual mammogram.
  7. The only way to know whether you have dense breasts or areas of density is to have a mammogram. If you are age 40 or over, or if your doctor assesses that you have risk factors that warrant starting mammograms at a younger age, you should have an annual mammogram and talk to your referring physician about breast tissue density and how it may affect decisions about what screening regimen is right your you.
  8. Your breast density may not always be the same. As women age, the density of breast tissue tends to decrease. This is another reason why your doctor should assess your density based on the findings of each annual mammogram. “Am I Dense?” is a question you should ask every year.

When you have your mammogram at Larchmont Medical Imaging, the results letter we send to you will include general information about breast tissue density and the importance of discussing it with your doctor. Your doctor will receive specific information about your breast tissue density level and whether you have dense breasts or areas of density that could be of concern.

After your mammogram, you should schedule an appointment to review this information with your referring physician and ensure that your current screening regimen is right for you—because the more we learn about breast tissue density and other risk factors, the more we understand that breast cancer screening shouldn’t be “once size fits all.”