Breasts are composed of two types of tissue: fatty (nondense) and connective (dense). Depending on how much of each type a woman has, her breast density can be more or less dense. While it’s normal to have dense breasts (40% of women do), dense tissue can also hide small cancerous lesions. Therefore, it is important that women know their breast density so they can get supplemental screening, if necessary.
Learn More About Your Breast Density
What is it and why does it matter?
Schedule a mammogram. A radiologist can determine your breast density by simply reading your exam. Radiologists use a grading scale that breaks density levels into four categories, ranging from “almost entirely fatty” to “extremely dense tissue present.” Your provider can explain the results to you in more detail.
Dense breast tissue can make it difficult to detect small cancers using mammography. Clinical studies have shown that women with dense breasts (Category C/Heterogenous and Category D/Extremely Dense) can benefit from a supplemental form of screening.
Talk with your provider about your individual risk factors for breast cancer, such as breast density, age, family history and your own health history. You and your provider may decide that you would benefit from supplementary screening tests. You should also schedule a yearly breast exam with your provider and continue to conduct your own monthly breast exams.
If our breast radiologist determines you have dense breasts, we will recommend supplemental screening. CDI is the first provider in Minnesota to offer 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound (ABUS), which is available at our North St. Paul Center. ABUS is a recently FDA-approved technology which has been proven to be useful in detecting early breast cancers in women with dense breasts–cancers that were unable to be detected with digital mammography.
Federal Law now requires radiologists to send a report to your referring provider that contains your breast density information. As of August 1, 2014, a Minnesota state law went into effect requiring that patients also receive this information.