Do you have dense breasts? Are you at higher risk for breast cancer? Read on to put an end to all your queries.

What are Dense Breasts & What do they Signify?

Dense breasts mean there are less fatty tissues present in them. Less fat tissues indicate that there is more support and glandular tissues present in the breasts. For dense breasts, performing a self-breast analysis cannot reveal if there are any abnormalities. Undergoing a mammogram is one way to identify.

When you visit the doctor, inform them about the history of dense breasts in your family. The reason this is very important is because, women with dense breasts are 5 times more prone to breast cancer and there are chances that a mammogram might not detect it too.

Common Reasons For Dense Breasts

There are no specific reasons why some women have dense breasts. However, they are common under the following circumstances.
· Women aging between 40 to 50. Breasts tend to become less dense over age and some women might have this condition much earlier too.
· If you are in the initial stages of your menopause
· Undergoing treatment for menopause such as hormone replacement therapy

Why Breast Density Matters?

Dense breasts can pose various issues such as cancer symptoms going unnoticed. They also increase the risk of getting breast cancer although the reasons are not yet known. Doctors are not able to identify why this is happening.

How Dense Breasts Affect Screening?

Interpreting the mammogram if you have dense breasts might be difficult. The major reason is that breast tissues and the dense breast tissues look the same and they appear white on the mammogram. Very dense breasts prevent cancer cells from showing up in a mammogram. More than fatty breasts, women with dense breasts are likely to develop breast cancer.

How To Determine Your Breast Density?

When you go in for a mammogram, the radiologist doing the scan determines the amount of non-dense tissues that are present compared to the dense tissues. Comparing these, a breast density level is set. The levels of the density is determined using a BI-RADS system. Some of the density levels are:
Mostly Fatty: Many women have breasts that are completely composed of fat.
Non-Dense: Scattered presence of fibro-glandular density is an indicator that some areas are dense while others are not. 4 out of 5 women have this type of breast.
Heterogeneously Dense: Some areas of the breast is non-dense while most of them are dense.
Extremely Dense: This means that most of the breast tissues is dense and it is not very common. Only 10% of women get this result.

Women who fall under the last two categories are said to have dense breasts. This makes up almost half of the women who undergo the mammogram.

Mammograms – The Best Tool For Detecting Breast Cancer In Dense Breasts

Mammogram is the best method for identifying breast cancer for women with dense breasts. The mammogram should be repeated every year for detecting any abnormalities. This helps in identifying breast cancer during the earlier stages, before it becomes complex. Digital mammograms store the result in the form of images. Therefore, the doctor can load them into a computer and zoom in if they want to examine any part.

Other Tests To Detect Breast Cancer

There are possibilities that additional tests are capable of identifying breast cancer in case of dense breasts. They must be performed so that the risk of breast cancer is eliminated. Here are some other tests that are conducted to check breast cancer in dense breasts.

3-D Mammogram
Also known as Breast Tomosynthesis, this technique uses X-rays for collecting multiple images of the breast. These images are taken from various angles. They’re then synthesized using a computer to form 3-D image of the breast.
Breast MRI
MRI uses magnetic resonance to create images. There is no radiation involved in these. For women with very dense breasts and high risk of breast cancer, breast MRI is recommended.
Breast Ultrasound
Ultrasound employs sound waves for analyzing breast tissues. If there are any areas of concern that are detected in the mammogram, an ultrasound can provide a clearer picture.
Molecular Breast Imaging
Using a gamma camera, the movement of a radioactive tracer is followed. The tracer is injected using a vein in your arm. Normal and cancerous tissues behave differently to the racer. These images are captured by the gamma camera and recorded for analysis.

There are no specific reasons why doctors recommend additional tests. But they are effective in detecting breast cancer and therefore these must be conducted if needed.

Stay aware & Stay Protected!

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