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Breast Density and Screening

Does having dense breasts affect exam and screening recommendations?

Mammograms are still recommended every year, as usual, but women with dense breast tissue can talk to their health care provider to determine a screening plan that’s right for them that takes into consideration other risk factors — such as age, family history, and their own health history.

Additional screenings that are available to women with dense breasts and other risk factors are:

  • Whole Breast Ultrasound: The ultrasound breast imaging system is a noninvasive procedure that allows for quicker — and much more detailed — visualization of the breast tissues. Ultrasounds are helpful in identifying masses in women with dense breast tissue that can’t be measured by mammography.
  • Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI is a procedure that produces detailed images of organs and structures within the body and can be a useful diagnostic tool. It can often detect lesions that are missed by mammography, and are helpful in women with breast implants and younger women with dense breast tissue.
  • More detailed mammography, such as 3D tomosynthesis, or more frequent clinical exams

Mammography is still the first line of defense in breast cancer screenings, but adding other methods of screening for women with dense breast tissue can substantially improve detection. Breast cancer risk management is very individualized, and every woman should work with their physician to develop the best personalized prevention plan.

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