What Exactly Are Dense Breasts?*

Let's start by deconstructing your décolletage....

Breasts are a combination of three types of tissue:  fibrous (connective tissue), glandular (milk ducts and lobules), and fatty. Dense breasts, which about 50%of women have, contain more fibrous and glandular tissue than fat.  They also set off more alarm bells.   Experts aren't sure why, but women with very high breast density are more likely to develop breast cancer.

Further complicating matters, it's harder to detect tumors in them because both dense breast tissue and benign and cancerous lumps appear white on mammograms.

Currently, 24 states require that physicians notify women who have undergone mammography (the only way to detect the issue) if they have dense breasts.  However, while these women may benefit from enhanced imaging, via ultrasound, no medical consensus has yet been reached on whether routine supplemental screening for women with dense breasts with worthwhile.

In fact, the downside of breast ultrasound is that it tends to generate lots of false positives, leading to unnecessary biopsies.

If you've been told you have dense breasts, be sure to schedule an appointment to discuss your best course of action.  "Risk factors like family history, previous biopsies, and whether or not you're on hormone replacement therapy should all be taken into consideration to figure out whether you would benefit from additional screening," says Elisa Port, MD, the author of The New Generation Breast Cancer Book.

Camelback Women's Health is now offering on-site mammography at our Tatum location!   Learn more about it here.

*October 2015 issue of Family Circle Magazine

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