Tennessee recently passed a law requiring that mammogram patients receive information about their breast density.
Here are answers to commonly asked questions regarding dense breasts:
“Dense breasts” describes how clearly the breast tissue appears on the mammogram. The radiologist reading your mammogram estimates the density of your breast tissue. In general, breast density decreases as you grow older.
Yes. Up to half of all women have dense breasts.
Dense breast tissue, which appears white on the mammogram, can hide breast cancer. Also, dense breast tissue may slightly increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
You will receive a letter in the mail from the facility that did your mammogram. The letter will provide the results of the mammogram and information about your breast density.
For most women, there’s not much that can be done to change breast density.
Your provider can help estimate your risk. The average lifetime risk for developing breast cancer is about 12%, or 1 in 8 women. 12% to 20% lifetime risk is considered “intermediate” and over 20% is considered “high”. If dense breast tissue were your only risk factor, you would be in the intermediate risk group.
Talk with your provider. Depending on your risk and other factors, you and your provider may decide that supplemental (extra) screening tests are recommended.
The radiologist and your provider can help decide which test may be right for you.
That will depend on your risk. Currently, Medicare and most insurance companies don’t pay for supplemental screening in average to intermediate risk women. Insurance usually covers supplemental screening in women at high risk.
You and your health care provider should discuss how this affects your risk and whether supplemental screening is right for you.
Supplemental screening tests are not perfect. These tests may reveal issues that lead to more testing and biopsies even when no cancer is present.