Have you received a recent mammogram result that shows you have dense breast tissue? You aren’t the only one. Just about half of all women undergoing mammogram testing are found to have dense breast tissue. Since June 2015, Michigan law requires facilities offering mammograms, such as Otsego Memorial Hospital, to provide awareness information for patients found to have dense breasts. But what does having dense breast tissue mean? And is there anything special you should do?
Since June 2015, Michigan law requires facilities offering mammograms, such as Otsego Memorial Hospital, to provide awareness information for patients found to have dense breasts.”
What Does that Mean?
Your radiologist determines if you have dense breast tissue by the appearance of the breast tissue on a mammogram. Dense breast tissue is composed of milk glands, milk ducts and supportive tissue, while non-dense breast tissue is made of fatty tissue. A mammogram shows this fatty tissue as being dark and transparent, but the dense breast tissue appears as solid white — making it harder for your radiologist to see through. Having dense breast tissue can affect you in two ways:
- It may slightly increase your risk of breast cancer, especially when combined with other risk factors.
- It can increase chances that breast cancer may go undetected by a mammogram.
The reason some women have more dense breast tissue than others isn’t clear, but you may be more likely to have dense breasts if you’re younger (below age 60), premenopausal or take hormone therapy for menopause.
What Should I Do?
After learning that you have dense breast tissue, it may be tempting to demand every possible test to ensure
you don’t have breast cancer. But according to Wendy Frye, MD, FACS, General Surgeon at Otsego Memorial Hospital, this would be a mistake. In fact, the majority of women with dense breast tissue are not at an increased risk of breast cancer. The information provided from your mammography facility regarding breast density should be used as an awareness tool rather than a call for further action.
According to a study by the American Cancer Society, women with dense breast tissue are at moderate risk for breast cancer. Determining your risk is the first step you should take after learning you have dense breast tissue. According to Dr. Frye, things that help determine your need for further testing are a family history of breast cancer or a known related genetic mutation in your family. “We help people sort out if they need to do any additional testing using tools to estimate risks for individual patients,” said Dr. Frye. Further testing after an increased risk is determined includes MRI, ultrasound or 3-D mammogram. However, both MRI and ultrasound show more findings that are not cancer, and this can lead to more testing and unnecessary biopsies, according to both Dr. Frye and the American Cancer Society.
If you don’t have other risk factors for breast cancer, most women with dense breasts are still considered to only have an average risk of developing breast cancer. “Most women don’t need to do anything else except to make sure they continue with regular screening mammograms,” said Dr. Frye, “I would encourage women to talk to their primary care physicians about what this means for them. If there are other risk factors, they should talk to their
physician about potential further testing.” If you would like assistance reviewing your personal risk and need for
further testing, Otsego Memorial Hospital can help.
If you don’t have other risk factors for breast cancer, most women with dense breasts are still considered to only have an average risk of developing breast cancer.”
All OMH providers are accepting new patients. To find a primary care provider who is right for you, visit our Provider Directory, or call our Physician Referral Line at (989) 731-2300. You can also request an appointment from our website.