Dense breast tissue is comprised of less fat and more connective tissue, which appears white on a mammogram. Cancer also appears white on a mammogram; thus, tumors are often hidden behind the dense tissue. Approximately 40 percent of woman have dense breasts; however, as a woman ages, her breasts usually become more fatty.
As one of the first breast centers in Colorado to offer a whole breast ultrasound, Sonnenalp Breast Center at Shaw Cancer Center continues its mission to save lives by finding cancer early. We offer an automated breast ultrasound system that has been cleared by the FDA as an adjunctive examination to mammography. Peer reviewed, published clinical trials demonstrate that whole breast ultrasound, when used as an adjunct to mammography, found more and smaller cancers than were found by mammography alone.
The Invenia ABUS
The FDA-approved Invenia ABUS (Automated Breast Ultrasound System) improves cancer detection by 35% over mammography in women with dense breasts. It looks at dense breasts differently to find cancer that mammography may not see. Ultrasound is a non-invasive and expedient way to look inside the body at organs and soft tissue. There is no exposure to ionizing radiation. Instead, ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to create a detailed image of the organ or tissue being examined. Sound waves are sent into the body through a hand-held device called a transducer, which is pressed against and moved over the skin. The 'echoes' that bounce back are then displayed as an image in real time on the ultrasound monitor.
Call Sonnenalp Breast Center at (970) 569-7690.
Four out of 10 women have dense breast tissue. Our breast density software determines the density of a woman's breasts at the time of mammography. You will be informed of your breast density in your results letter that you receive through the mail. You may also review your mammography report with your referring doctor or call our mammography navigator at (970) 569-7417 to discuss.
Talk to your doctor about having a whole breast ultrasound to accompany your mammogram. Sonnenalp Breast Center at The Shaw Cancer Center features the FDA-approved Invenia ABUS (Automated Breast Ultrasound System).
Breasts are made out of fat and breast tissue. Some women have more fat than breast tissue while others have more breast tissue than fat. When there is more breast tissue, the mammogram looks white and is considered dense. Since masses or lumps also appear white on a mammogram, a lump may be masked by the dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue is also linked with an increase in the risk of developing breast cancer.
That being said, having dense breast tissue is NOT an abnormal condition. It is a part of you, like having green eyes or red hair and not something that you can readily change. Dense breast tissue is common; in fact, over 60% of women in this region have dense breast tissue. Since mammography has limited visibility in women with dense breast tissue, screening dense breasts with ultrasound, in addition to mammography, may improve the likelihood of detecting cancer.
You may have heard the statement that looking for cancer in dense breast tissue is like looking for a snowball in a snowstorm. This is a descriptive way of explaining why dense breast tissue can potentially mask breast cancers. On an X-ray mammogram, both dense breast tissue and cancers show up as white. Therefore, with mammography, a cancer can easily hide in a background of dense breast tissue since they both appear white. Alternatively, in fatty tissue, which is gray, a white mass (cancer) can be readily identified.
Breast density cannot be determined by palpation or by the appearance of the breasts on exam – it can only be determined by evaluating a mammogram. Your radiologist performs your breast density assessment at the time of your mammographic interpretation.
Generally speaking, it is true that younger women usually have denser breast tissue and most women will have fatty replacement of dense glandular beast tissue as they age. However, that being said, 74% of women in their 40s, 57% of women in their 50s, 44% of women in their 60s and 36% of women in their 70s have dense breast tissue.
NO, having dense breast tissue is not an abnormal condition. It is a feature of your body. 46% of women in the United States have dense breast tissue.
Digital mammography has been found to be more effective for pre and perimenopausal women with dense breast tissue. However, even digital mammography has significant limitations in dense breast tissue.
Mammography is still the gold standard. Supplemental imaging is meant to complement mammography not replace it. If your doctor recommends a breast ultrasound exam, it should not be performed in isolation. However, a woman with dense breast tissue may not require ongoing supplemental imaging if her breast density changes and becomes more fatty.
Sonnenalp Breast Center is a service of Vail Health Hospital.