Why does breast density matter?

Dense breast tissue increases your risk for breast cancer and can only be identified through a mammogram.

More public attention has focused on breast density recently in light of a new federal requirement. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now requires that all mammography providers notify patients if they have dense breast tissue.

Breast density is divided into four categories (A, B, C and D) that range from almost entirely fatty to extremely dense.

  • Categories A and B are not dense.
  • Categories C and D are dense.

Dense breasts have more glandular and connective tissue than fatty tissue. Breast cancer more commonly develops in dense tissue, and it’s more difficult to detect cancer in dense tissue on a mammogram. 3D mammography, which is the screening platform used by Washington Radiology, is a superior screening technology for women with dense breasts. Additionally, breast ultrasound or breast MRI may be ordered as a supplemental screening tool. Women with dense breasts should work closely with their physician and a breast-specialized radiologist to determine what is appropriate for their long-term breast health.

About half of women 40 and older have dense breasts. Often, dense breast tissue is inherited. Breast density changes over a woman’s lifetime and is a characteristic that can only be identified through an annual mammogram. One of the most important reasons that a woman should have a baseline, or first mammogram, at the age of 40 is because it establishes whether or not she has dense breast tissue.

If it’s time for your annual mammogram, schedule here.

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