Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and second leading cause of cancer death in American women, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Mammogram screenings should begin for the general population at age 40. Regular mammograms can find breast changes that could be cancer years before physical symptoms develop. Women should become familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to their health care provider.
After your mammogram is complete the radiologist will look at the images and describe it on the final report. Breast tissue will look different depending on what type of tissue you typically have. Women can have almost entirely fatty tissue, scattered fibroglandular densities or heterogeneously dense tissue. Forty percent of women ages 40 and older have dense breasts. You are more likely to have dense breasts if you are younger/ premenopausal.
Dense breast tissue is common and is not abnormal. Dense breast tissue can affect you in two ways. It increases the chance that breast cancer may go undetected. Dense breast tissue and cancer both appear white on a mammogram. It also increases your risk of breast cancer. The reason why it increases your risks is unclear. At this time, experts do not agree with what tests should be performed to further evaluate the dense tissue. However, women with heterogeneously dense tissue should consider breast a sonogram or MRI, especially if they have other risk factors for breast cancer such as the BRCA 1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, first-degree relative with breast cancer, and/or radiation therapy to chest between ages of 10 and 30 years.
In the United States, law requires health care providers in some states to inform women when mammograms show they have dense breasts. Illinois is one of the few states that currently mandate insurance reimbursement for supplemental screening exams for women with dense breasts. At the Couri Center, we are committed to your health and providing you with the information you need to make the best decision for you. When we receive your mammogram report, if the radiologist notes “dense breast tissue”, we will notify you. We recommend you join our portal system so we can send you information via email. It takes only minutes to register!
Renee Alwan Percell, MMS PA-C