breast imaging

What is breast density and why does it matter?

pie chartFor years, you’ve heard about the importance of breast self-examination and why you should have regular mammograms. Now it’s also important to understand breast density and what it could mean to determine your overall breast health. Breasts consist of fibrous and glandular tissue and fatty tissue. Dense breasts have little fat but more fibrous and glandular tissue.

Breast density in the U.S.

• 10% of women have almost entirely fatty breasts
• 10% have very dense breasts
• 80% fall between the two extremes

Dense or not dense?

When you have a mammogram, the radiologist can determine if your breasts are dense. If so, a brochure about breast density is sent to you along with your mammogram results. It matters because dense breasts may increase your chances of getting breast cancer. Dr. Laura Huggins explains, “Dense tissue and breast lumps appear white on a mammogram, making the results harder to read. This may cause the mammograms of women with dense breasts to be less accurate.”

Dr. Huggins adds, “3D mammography helps level the odds. Images captured using digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) provide different angles that make it easier to see abnormalities in all breasts, including dense breasts. It also decreases the potential for additional testing.”

Discuss your breast density with your doctor and learn which screening method (2D, 3D, ultrasound, or MRI) is best while also considering your health history.