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After your first mammogram, your doctor may tell you have dense breasts. But what exactly does that mean? In a woman’s breasts, there are two types of tissue:
- Non-dense tissue-made up of fatty cells
- Dense tissue- made up of milk glands, ducts and other tissues
Having dense breasts simply means you have more dense tissue than the fatty tissue.
Dense breasts are very common and normal. In fact, about half of all women have at least some areas of dense tissue. You may be more likely to have dense breasts if you’re:
- Within a low BMI
- Taking hormone therapy for menopause
- Younger than 50
How Do Dense Breasts Affect My Health?
While your everyday health shouldn’t be affected, having dense breasts can raise your risk for breast cancer — though doctors still don’t understand know why. Women with dense breasts are considered high risk for breast cancer, even if you don’t have a family history or other breast cancer risks.
If you’re at a higher risk, your doctor may recommend annual mammograms. However, it can be hard for doctors to tell the difference between cancerous tissue and dense breast tissue because they both appear white on a mammogram. After you have your first few mammograms under your belt, your doctor will have a good idea of your “normal” and will keep all previous images on file for comparison. Over time, your doctor will watch your mammogram results for any changes.
Luckily, new technology like 3-D mammography is also making reading mammograms easier. This technology works just like a mammogram, but takes additional pictures from many different angles. A computer then puts all the images together into a 3-D model of your breast, allowing your physician to see the shape of the tissue and the all-around density, making it easier to determine if your tissue is normal.
If you have very dense breasts and other risk factors for breast cancer, your doctor may recommend that you receive breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instead of a mammogram each year. This test provide an in-depth picture of your breasts.
Manage Your Breast Health
At AdventHealth, we offer digital and 3-D mammography to help you detect cancer early. We can give you peace of mind with regular screenings and fast, accurate results. If you’re heading in for your first mammogram, we’re here to help prepare you with what to expect.