Understanding Dense Breast Tissue

Breast Tissue

Having dense breast tissue increases a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer, and makes it more difficult to detect breast cancer through mammography. Learn what it means to have dense breasts, how to determine if you have dense breasts, and what you should do about it.

You may have heard that women should start annual mammograms starting at age 40, but what about women with dense breasts? All women, including women with dense breasts should have yearly mammograms. Click To Tweet

What is dense breast tissue?

Breasts are made up of different types of tissues, including glandular and fatty tissues. Dense breasts have more glandular tissue, or milk-producing tissue, than fatty tissue.

If your breasts have mostly fibrous or glandular tissue, and less fatty tissue, you have dense breasts.

What does it mean if you have dense breast tissue?

Having dense breast tissue can increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.

  • It makes it more difficult to detect breast cancers on mammograms.
  • Some studies show that women who have dense breasts are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram. However, breast cancer also appears white on a mammogram. This means that it is more difficult to detect breast cancers in dense breast tissues through mammography.

How can you tell if you have dense breast tissue?

More than 40% of women have dense breast tissue, and breast density can change as you age. The only way to know if you have dense breasts is through mammography screening. A mammogram clearly shows whether you have dense breasts or fatty breasts.

Women with dense breast tissue should still receive annual mammograms. It’s recommended that all women start annual mammograms screenings starting at age 40. However, women with dense breasts should also consider Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS).

This screening method does not replace the need for mammography, but it can detect small breast cancers that a mammogram might miss. Using ultrasound in conjunction with annual mammography screening has been shown to detect more early cancers than mammography alone for women with dense breasts.

Call 479-442-6266 to request an appointment for a mammogram, ABUS, or to meet with with a breast imaging specialist in Northwest Arkansas.