What are dense breasts?
Breasts consist of a mixture of fibrous, glandular and fatty tissue.Women with glandular and fatty tissue receive mammograms to rule out benign or cancerous lumps. Mammography continues to be the gold standard for screening and identifying the density of the breast; however, dense breasts increase the difficulty to see a cancer on a mammogram and the chances of developing cancer. The State of Alabama passed the Breast Density Notification Law in 2013 (effective starting 2014) stating women must be notified if she has dense breast tissue.
Dense breasts are very common.It means a person has more fibrous and glandular tissue than fat tissue.The increased density of the breast may allow some cancers to be obscured on a routine mammogram. Both cancer and dense breast tissue appear white on a mammogram.
In the past, dense breast tissue was determined by a radiologist's reading. Huntsville Hospital Breast Center has improved the diagnosis of breast density by using the Liz Hurley Foundation Funds to purchase Volpara software. This computer software assists our radiologists in determining if a patient has dense breasts, creating an objective assessment.
If you have dense breast tissue, continue with routine mammograms but also consider a dense breast survey performed with ultrasound.Ultrasound is an established tool for imaging dense breast tissue providing distinguishable imaging between fatty and dense breast tissue. A trained ultrasound technologist performs a dense breast survey by scanning each breast with the ultrasound machine, which may last approximately 30-40 minutes.
As always, please discuss options with your health care provider. Call (256) 801-6283 to schedule your routine mammogram.
By: Patti Hopkins RN, BSN, MSHA
Director, Huntsville Hospital & Madison Hospital Breast Centers