Breast Density Bill: A Boost for Breast Health!

The Breast Density Notification and Awareness Bill, approved by North Carolina legislation, goes into full effect on Wednesday, January 1, 2014. The bill requires all mammography providers to inform women of their breast density level as interpreted on their mammogram.

 

What is breast density?

Density measures the amount of fatty, glandular and fibrous tissue in the breast. A dense breast consists of more glandular and fibrous tissue than fat. It is not a measure of breast firmness; therefore, a mammogram is the only way to determine your density. Dense tissue is relatively common and found in more than 40% of women.

 

Why is breast density important?

The presence of dense tissue may make it more difficult to detect abnormalities in the breast and may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Dense tissue appears white on a mammogram. Since lumps—both non-cancerous and cancerous—also appear white, mammograms may be less effective for women with dense breasts.

 

How do I find out if I have dense breasts?

Breast density is determined by the radiologist reading your mammogram and will be included on the mammography report sent to you and your physician. A 4-level scale (pictured below) is used to categorize density. Breast density will be assessed each year and may vary based on radiologist interpretation, as well as naturally occurring changes in breast tissue.

(Read more: Breast Health at Every Age)

 

Breast Density Scale

 

Screening for Women with Dense Breast Tissue (Heterogeneously or Extremely Dense)

Women with dense breast tissue should still get an annual mammogram. Mammograms remain the only medical imaging test proven to reduce breast cancer deaths. If you have dense breasts, please talk to your doctor. Together, you can decide if additional screening exams can benefit you. Charlotte Radiology offers the following:

  • Studies have shown that breast ultrasound and/or MRI, in conjunction with mammography, may improve breast cancer detection in women with dense breasts.

 

Screening for Women without Dense Breast Tissue (Fatty or Scattered Fibroglandular)

Women without dense breast tissue should still get an annual mammogram. This breast tissue type is easier to evaluate for breast cancer and is not considered an independent risk factor. Mammograms are most effective at detecting breast cancer in women that have mostly fatty breast tissue. Therefore, we recommend annual mammograms along with monthly self-breast exams and yearly breast exams by your physician.

 

For additional information and resources, check out the following links:

Posted in Breast Cancer Detection Guidelines, Screening Mammography, Tomosynthesis


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