You have always put a priority on breast health. You’ve talked with your provider about your personal risk for breast cancer—including family history and lifestyle choices—and you pay attention to any changes in your breasts that could present a problem. However, when your doctor asks you what your breast density is, you have no idea.
What is Breast Density? Breast density has nothing to do with how your breasts look or how big they are. Your breast density is a way to describe what kinds of tissue make up your breasts.
Breasts have two kinds of tissue: fatty tissue (which is easy to see through on mammograms); and fibrous, or glandular, tissue (which is more difficult to see through on imaging tests).
The more fibro glandular tissue, the more dense your breasts. Radiologists can assign one of four grades based on breast density:
A. Almost all fatty tissue
B. Scattered areas of density
C. Larger areas of density
D. Extremely dense
“Women with category C or D breast density have a higher chance of malignancy,” says Demir Bastug, MD, radiologist with Columbus Regional. “This may be because cancers are harder to see on imaging tests in women with dense breast tissue, or there may be something about the dense tissue itself that increases your risk.” Women with dense breasts are up to six times more likely to develop cancer.
You cannot tell your breast density by looking at or feeling your breasts—the only way to know your breast density is through a mammogram. By North Carolina state law, all healthcare facilities that perform mammography must identify the patient’s breast density level.
“At Columbus Regional, we use software that automatically grades breast density from a mammogram,” Dr. Bastug says.
“Called Volpara Density, this software looks at the raw data and provides a reliable density grade.” Before a woman leaves the mammography suite at CRHS, she knows what her breast density grade it. “
Because breast cancer in dense tissue can be difficult to detect via mammogram, it’s recommended to have follow-up testing.
At CRHS, we have three-dimensional automated breast ultrasound (ABUS) available in the mammography suite. The latest in breast imaging, this provides a quick, painless way to get another imaging test that can detect early signs of breast cancer. The ABUS works quickly to provide an accurate image of dense breast tissue. No matter the density of breast tissue, CRHS is here to help you get a clear picture of your health.
For more information about the imaging services at Columbus Regional Healthcare System visit crhealthcare.org/services/imaging-services.