What does it mean if you have dense breast?

If a recent mammogram showed you have “dense breast” don’t worry, it’s normal and fairly common. In-fact it is estimated that 40-50% of women between 40 and 70 years old have dense breast. Dense breast tissue refers to the appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram. If you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue, but not much fatty tissue in your breasts, then they are considered to be dense breasts. Breast density may vary over a woman’s lifetime, becoming less dense after menopause.

On your mammogram the non-dense breast tissue is dark and transparent, but the dense tissue appears as a solid white area, which makes it difficult to see through. A description of your breast density is included in your mammography report read by our radiologists. They use a reporting system called BI-RADS to identify the level of density. The levels are:

  • Level 1 (0 – 25%) Almost entirely fatty
  • Level 2 (25 – 50%) Scattered Fibroglandular tissue
  • Level 3 (50 – 75%) Heterogeneously dense
  • Level 4 (over 75% ) Extreme Fibroglandular tissue

Breast density can only be determined by imaging. Mammography is the gold standard in screening because it is the only tool that has been repeatedly proven through countless studies, to decrease death from breast cancer with the early detection. In women with dense breasts, the addition of 3D mammography increases cancer detection while reducing false positives. Recently the FDA approved Hologic’s Genius ™ 3D Mammography™ Exam as the only mammogram superior for women with dense breasts.

Derry Imaging offers the Hologic Genius™ exam at all our locations in Derry, Windham & Bedford, NH.

You may also want to discuss supplemental tests for breast cancer screening such as Breast MRI and Breast Ultrasound if you are a high risk patient who has:

  • The BRCA gene mutations
  • A strong family history of breast cancer
  • A finding on a mammogram that warrants additional testing

(It is important to note that Breast MRI and Breast Ultrasound do not replace annual screening mammography, as some cancers may only be seen on a mammogram.)