Dense breast tissue: what you need to know

By: Women's Care Florida Staff

Breast health has become an important topic of conversation for women these days. Heightened awareness of breast cancer risks and the benefits of early detection has empowered women to be more proactive in protecting their health. One of the factors affecting the accuracy of breast cancer screenings is a condition known as ‘dense breast tissue,’ or simply ‘dense breasts.’

What does it mean if you have dense breasts? According to a recent article on the Medical News Today website, dense breast tissue can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. It can also make it more difficult for physicians to identify cancerous lesions in the breast.

Women’s breasts are made up of three components: lobules, ducts and a connective tissue that can be fatty and fibrous. Breast density can fall under one of four categories: mostly fatty, scattered density, consistent density and extremely dense. When a woman’s breasts are more fibrous than they are fatty, a doctor may diagnose her with dense breasts. According to Stanford Health Care, “10% of U.S. women have almost entirely fatty breasts, 10% have extremely dense breasts and 80% are classified into either scattered density or consistent density”.

Diagnosing dense breast tissue

Having firm or large breasts doesn’t automatically mean that you have dense breasts. In fact, the only viable way to determine if your have dense breasts is through a mammogram or x-ray given by your doctor. While the diagnosis isn’t uncommon or life threatening, it is important to understand the risks associated with dense breasts – the more dense a women’s breasts are, the more difficult it is for doctors to identify cancerous lesions. Your physician may need to use different imaging techniques such as MRI to differentiate between dense tissue and tumors.

While there is no way to prevent dense breasts, there are steps that you can take to help lower your risk of breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in physical activity on a regular basis, decreasing your alcohol intake and obtaining from smoking are great ways to help reduce your risk of breast cancer. It’s also important to stay up to date on mammogram screenings and to identify and discuss any family history of breast cancer with your doctor.

Talk to your OB-GYN to learn more about dense breasts and how you can help lower your risk of breast cancer. The board-certified physicians at Women’s Care Florida are dedicated to keeping you healthy. Contact us today to make an appointment for a mammogram screening.