Dense breast tissue: What it usually means to have dense breasts

Dense breast tissue is detected on a mammogram. Extra imaging tests are from time to time encouraged for women with dense breasts.

By Mayo Clinic Employees

If a recent mammogram showed you have dense breast tissue, you may perhaps wonder what this usually means for your breast cancer danger. Medical doctors know dense breast tissue will make breast cancer screening a lot more difficult and it improves the danger of breast cancer.

Review your breast cancer danger factors with your health practitioner and take into consideration your options for more breast cancer screening tests. Alongside one another you can decide no matter if more screening tests are right for you.

What is dense breast tissue?

Dense breast tissue refers to the visual appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram. It is a typical and popular finding.

Breast tissue is composed of milk glands, milk ducts and supportive tissue (dense breast tissue), and fatty tissue (nondense breast tissue). When seen on a mammogram, women with dense breasts have a lot more dense tissue than fatty tissue.

On a mammogram, nondense breast tissue seems dim and clear. Dense breast tissue seems as a solid white space on a mammogram, which will make it difficult to see by.

How do health professionals figure out if you have dense breast tissue?

The radiologist who analyzes your mammogram decides the ratio of nondense tissue to dense tissue and assigns a degree of breast density.

Degrees of density are explained using a final results reporting program referred to as Breast Imaging Reporting and Info Process (BI-RADS). The levels of density are typically recorded in your mammogram report using letters. The levels of density are:

  • A: Almost totally fatty indicates that the breasts are practically totally composed of fats. About 1 in 10 women has this outcome.
  • B: Scattered locations of fibroglandular density indicates there are some scattered locations of density, but the vast majority of the breast tissue is nondense. About four in 10 women have this outcome.
  • C: Heterogeneously dense indicates that there are some locations of nondense tissue, but that the vast majority of the breast tissue is dense. About four in 10 women have this outcome.
  • D: Extremely dense indicates that almost all of the breast tissue is dense. About 1 in 10 women has this outcome.

In typical, women with breasts that are categorized as heterogeneously dense or extremely dense are regarded as to have dense breasts. About fifty percent of women undergoing mammograms have dense breasts.

What results in dense breast tissue?

It is not apparent why some women have a large amount of dense breast tissue and other individuals do not.

You may perhaps be a lot more likely to have dense breasts if you:

  • Are youthful. Your breast tissue tends to grow to be fewer dense as you age, even though some women may perhaps have dense breast tissue at any age.
  • Have a decreased human body mass index. Women of all ages with fewer human body fats are a lot more likely to have a lot more dense breast tissue in contrast with women who are overweight.
  • Just take hormone remedy for menopause. Women of all ages who acquire mixture hormone remedy to ease signs and signs and symptoms of menopause are a lot more likely to have dense breasts.

Why does breast density subject?

Getting dense breasts influences you in two methods:

  • Improves the possibility that breast cancer may perhaps go undetected by a mammogram, given that dense breast tissue can mask a probable cancer
  • Improves your danger of breast cancer, even though health professionals are not sure why

What tests are encouraged for breast cancer screening?

Most clinical businesses advise women with an typical danger of breast cancer take into consideration typical mammogram screening beginning at age 40 and take into consideration repeating the screening each year.

Women of all ages with dense breasts, but no other danger factors for breast cancer, are regarded as to have a increased danger of breast cancer than typical. They may perhaps profit from once-a-year breast cancer screening.

Dense breast tissue will make it a lot more difficult to interpret a mammogram, given that cancer and dense breast tissue both of those show up white on a mammogram. Extremely dense breasts may perhaps boost the danger that cancer will not be detected on a mammogram.

Even with concerns about detecting cancer in dense breasts, mammograms are still productive screening resources. The most popular form of mammogram — digital mammogram — will save visuals of your breasts as digital files as a substitute of film and lets for a lot more specific analysis. This is a lot more productive at finding cancer in dense breast tissue than older film mammogram know-how.

Are other tests a lot more productive?

There is some evidence that more tests may perhaps make it a lot more likely that breast cancer is detected in dense breast tissue. But more tests carry more challenges, and no more screening approach is proved to cut down the danger of dying of breast cancer.

You and your health practitioner may perhaps take into consideration more or supplemental screening primarily based on your other danger factors and your own preferences.

Supplemental tests for breast cancer screening may perhaps include things like:

  • 3-D mammogram (breast tomosynthesis). Tomosynthesis works by using X-rays to acquire multiple visuals of the breast from numerous angles. The visuals are synthesized by a laptop or computer to kind a 3-D graphic of the breast. Lots of mammogram centers are transitioning to integrate 3-D mammograms as aspect of the standard mammogram know-how.
  • Breast MRI. MRI works by using magnets to develop visuals of the breast. MRI does not use radiation. Breast MRI is encouraged for women with a pretty substantial danger of breast cancer, this sort of as individuals with genetic mutations that boost the danger of cancer.
  • Breast ultrasound. Ultrasound works by using sound waves to examine tissue. A diagnostic ultrasound is typically applied to investigate locations of concern uncovered on a mammogram.
  • Molecular breast imaging (MBI). MBI, also recognised as breast-unique gamma imaging, works by using a specific digicam (gamma digicam) that records the action of a radioactive tracer. The tracer is injected into a vein in your arm. Normal tissue and cancerous tissue react differently to the tracer, which can be observed in the visuals developed by the gamma digicam. MBI is performed every single other 12 months in addition to an once-a-year mammogram.

Every single take a look at has pros and cons. While every single take a look at is proved to obtain a lot more breast cancers than a mammogram, none of these more recent imaging tests is proved to cut down the danger of dying of breast cancer, as has been finished with the standard film mammogram.

Supplemental screening take a look at Professionals Drawbacks
3-D mammogram
  • Approximated to detect about 1 more cancer per 1,000 women
  • Performed at the exact time as a standard mammogram
  • Minimizes the want for staying referred to as back again for more screening of locations of concern that are not cancer
  • Handy in assessing dense breast tissue
  • Exposes you to more radiation, even though levels are still pretty very low
  • Availability is getting to be a lot more popular
Breast MRI
  • Approximated to detect about fourteen more cancers per 1,000 women
  • No more radiation exposure
  • Greatly obtainable
  • Very likely to obtain locations of concern that are not cancer, but that need more imaging or a biopsy
  • Needs injection of distinction material
  • High priced take a look at that might not be lined by insurance policies unless of course you have a pretty substantial danger of cancer
Breast ultrasound
  • Approximated to detect an more two-four cancers per 1,000 women
  • No more radiation exposure
  • Greatly obtainable
  • Very likely to obtain locations of concern that are not cancer, but that need more imaging or a biopsy
  • Quality of test dependent on experience of human being doing the take a look at
Molecular breast imaging
  • Approximated to detect about 7 more cancers per 1,000 women
  • A lot less likely to obtain locations of concern that are not cancer
  • Consists of injection of a radioactive tracer, which exposes you to a pretty very low degree of radiation
  • Available at several clinical centers