Fairfax Radiology Centers

Understanding Dense Breasts

Older woman thinking.

Dense breasts are a common topic in discussions about breast health, but what exactly does it mean to have dense breast tissue? Dense breasts contain more glandular and fibrous tissue compared to fatty tissue, making them appear white or cloudy on a mammogram. This density can make it more challenging to detect potential abnormalities, such as tumors, on a standard mammogram.

Women of all ages can have dense breasts. Genetics, hormone levels, and certain lifestyle factors can contribute to breast density. While dense breasts are not abnormal or unhealthy, they can increase the risk of breast cancer and make early detection more difficult.

So, how can you tell if you have dense breasts? The only way to definitively determine breast density is through a mammogram. Your radiologist will evaluate the density of your breasts and include this information in your mammogram report.

The importance of screening mammograms cannot be overstated, especially for women with dense breasts. While mammograms remain a vital tool in breast cancer detection, the effectiveness of traditional mammography may be limited in women with dense breasts due to overlapping tissue.

Breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography, is an advanced imaging technology that provides a clearer and more detailed view of breast tissue, making it easier to detect abnormalities, particularly in women with dense breasts. With breast tomosynthesis, radiologists can examine breast tissue layer by layer, yielding more accurate results and reducing callbacks for extra views.

Regular screening mammograms, including breast tomosynthesis for women with dense breasts, are necessary for early detection and improved outcomes in breast cancer treatment. By detecting cancer in its earliest stages, when it's most treatable, screening mammograms can save lives.

If you're due for a mammogram or have concerns about your breast health, talk to your health care provider about scheduling a screening. We do not require an order for a screening if you are symptom-free and not in need of a follow-up mammogram.

Learn more about breast imaging here.

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