Patient Education and Resources
Useful links, documents and articles:
North American Menopause Society (Good info about menopause)
Topic of Interest:
“DENSE BREASTS” ON MAMMOGRAPHY
The radiologists reading mammograms are now routinely reporting whether or not the breasts appear “dense”. About 50% of women have dense breasts. It is not an abnormality. It is nothing more than a measure of how much fat is in the breast tissue.
Some experts have indicated that women with dense breasts may have a greater risk for breast cancer and that mammography may be less likely to detect cancer in these women. The option of additional screening with sonography or MRI has been studied. The following is based on opinions from the American College of Radiology regarding dense breasts:
The assessment of breast density is not reliably reproducible. When the same mammogram is interpreted by a different physician or by the same physician on different occasions, differing density can be reported.
The significance of breast density as a risk factor for breast cancer is highly controversial. Moreover, there is no consensus that density adds sufficient risk to warrant supplemental screening. For women with dense breasts, receipt of breast density information may create undue anxiety about their risk and worry that mammography may have missed a breast cancer.
Breast MRI is more sensitive than either mammography or ultrasound and can even detect malignancies not found when both mammography and ultrasound are combined. However, adding MRI or ultrasound can result in additional false positive examinations and increase the number of unnecessary breast biopsies. There is no randomized trial data that shows that adding either ultrasound or MRI to mammography screening saves lives.
Finally, supplemental screening with sonography or MRI for dense breast is not necessarily covered by insurers and could be an out of pocket expense for those who choose that option.
Assuming your mammogram is read as “normal”, you can choose to find out if your breasts are dense. If you do have dense breasts, you can opt to have additional testing. As detailed above, the overall benefit of this decision is controversial and coverage is uncertain.