Breast density is a measure of how the breasts look on a mammogram, not how your breasts feel. Dense breast tissue is not abnormal but it can make interpretation of your mammogram difficult. The breasts normally contain fatty, fibrous (connective) and glandular tissue. The fibrous and glandular tissues appear white on the mammogram. Fatty tissue is black, and the contrast provided by the fatty tissue allows the radiologist to identify abnormal areas. The pockets of fibroglandular tissue surrounded by fat create an image that resembles a smoky haze on the mammogram. High breast density means there is a greater amount of glandular and fibrous tissue as compared to fat. The mammogram image looks whiter in dense breasts. Most breast cancers also look white on the mammogram. So with dense breasts the addition of Tomosynthesis, ultrasound or MRI allows the Radiologist to see through the white, fibroglandular tissue to find smaller cancers.
Breast Tomosynthesis (3-D mammography) allows the doctor to examine breast tissue one layer at a time to find cancers hiding in the white fibroglandular tissue. Digital Tomosynthesis can help to detect more cancers in dense breasts, but the 3-D mammogram still relies on the contrast provided by fat. Some breasts are so dense that another screening modality is needed, in addition to the mammogram, to assure that there is no cancer hiding in the white fibroglandular breast tissue. Most breast cancers can be seen on a mammogram, but ultrasound and/or MRI can help find breast cancer that cannot be seen on the mammogram.
You may be called back for a Screening Breast Ultrasound or MRI based on your breast density and individual risk for breast cancer. A recall for additional screening does not mean that your mammogram is abnormal. So don't panic if you are called back! It is best to follow the recommendations of the interpreting radiologist and your personal physician.
Carolyn G. Dudley, MD
Diagnostic Radiology Ultrasound & Breast Center
Carolyn G. Dudley has over 30 years' experience in breast imaging. She attended Bryn Mawr College, Howard University and completed her Diagnostic Radiology residency at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan. She is board certified by the American Board of Radiology and is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society.
Dr. Dudley was one of the pioneers in developing techniques to diagnose breast cancer utilizing MRI. Presently, she has a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia where she offers patients a wide range of outpatient diagnostic services in a convenient and patient-friendly environment. Her practice is the first non-hospital facility in Georgia to offer the latest advancement in mammography: 3D Mammography (breast tomosynthesis). In addition, Dr. Dudley provides 2D Digital Mammography, bone densitometry and ultrasound utilizing the most up-to-date technology available.
Diagnostic Radiology is pleased to announce that beginning in January 2015 3D mammograms for Medicare patients are now covered by Medicare insurance.
Sponsored by: Diagnostic Radiology Ultrasound & Breast Center
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