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Dense Breast Tissue Explained

On April 1, 2013, a California law was passed that requires that women with higher levels of dense breast tissue to be informed of their density in a mammogram result letter. Often, health care providers do not include recommendations about what to do next. The following questions can help you to better understand dense breast tissue.  

What is dense breast tissue?
Breast tissue is composed of two types: fatty (non dense) tissue and connective (dense) tissue. Both types of tissue are normal, and the ratio of fatty to dense breast tissue differs among all women.

What risks are associated with dense breast tissue?
Women with dense breast tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer. And for women with higher amounts of dense tissue in their breasts, mammograms alone may not be enough to find breast cancer. When a woman gets a mammogram, the fatty tissue appears dark and the dense tissue appears white. Tumors are also dense tissue and appear white. This can make it more difficult to “see” a cancer because it looks similar to the area around it. Cancer can go undetected until it is larger and more difficult to treat. Early detection of breast cancer can mean faster, less debilitating, less expensive and more successful treatment.

How do I know if I have dense breast tissue?
Schedule a mammogram. If you’ve had one recently, you can ask your doctor what the radiologist’s mammogram report says about your breast density.

What do I do if I have dense breast tissue?
Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for breast cancer, including your breast density, age, family history, and your own health history. You may benefit from additional screening. Although mammography remains the standard for early detection of breast cancer, El Camino Hospital’s Breast Health Center offers ultrasound breast imaging system (whole breast ultrasound). This painless, quick imaging technology can help locate breast cancers that are hidden in dense tissue. Many insurance companies pay for this additional screening for women with dense breasts. If yours does not, cash discounts and other financial assistance are available. El Camino Hospital is proud to offer advanced diagnostic testing for women in our community, and proud to help educate all women about cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment.

Learn more about the comprehensive screening options at the El Camino Hospital Breast Health Center. Call 650-988-7050 to schedule your mammogram.

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