Understanding Dense Breasts: What the Experts Need You to Know
Partner Content
By South Jersey Radiology Associates

Dense breasts are quite common – nearly 40% of all women have them.

Within this group of women, many do not know they have dense breasts and are not aware of its impact on their health. 

In early March 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rolled out new regulations, requiring women’s imaging centers to notify patients about the density level of their breasts. Breast tissue density is the latest breast cancer risk factor identified by medical researchers from around the globe.  

The regulation will provide further insight for patients, allowing them to take the proper precautions regarding when and where to schedule their annual screening mammograms. 

What is Dense Breast Tissue?

Breast density is a measure of how much connective tissue there is compared to fat. The more connective tissue, the denser the breast. Your breast tissue is composed of four main parts: milk glands, milk ducts, connective tissue, and fatty tissue. On a mammogram, dense breast tissue appears as a solid white area, which makes identifying abnormalities difficult. 

How Do I Know If I Have Dense Breast Tissue?

Self or physical exams cannot accurately determine if you have dense breast tissue. The best way to measure breast tissue is through a screening 3D mammogram, also called digital breast tomosynthesis. Like traditional (2D) mammograms, 3D mammograms use X-rays to produce breast images to detect abnormalities including calcification, cysts, and masses. 3D mammograms have the ability to view breast tissue from more angles than traditional mammograms, improving early detection rates. Creating a more comprehensive view of your breast will allow radiologists to accurately analyze and measure how much dense breast tissue you have. If you have dense breast tissue, your radiologist and doctor will recommend extra precautions that help locate abnormalities that may be hidden in the dense tissue. 

What Precautions Should I Take? 

The level of breast density will determine what precautions should be taken and when. According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), there are four classifications of breast tissue based on how the tissue appears on a 3D mammogram:

  • Class A – almost entirely fatty.
  • Class B – scattered areas of fibro glandular density.
  • Class C – heterogeneously dense breast, which may obscure small masses.
  • Class D – extremely dense breasts, which lowers the detection rate of mammography.

Women with the highest density are 4 to 6 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with least dense breasts. 

Breast imaging experts recommend additional imaging studies alongside annual screening mammograms. Breast ultrasounds and MRIs can provide a targeted, in-depth view of the breast tissue to make sure there are no abnormalities hidden in the white areas of your mammogram results. Unlike annual screening mammograms, a breast ultrasound and MRI both require referrals, making timely and consistent screenings very important. 

Does It Matter Where I Go for My Studies? 

It is very important to choose a comprehensive women’s imaging provider who can support you throughout your entire breast health journey. Your annual screening mammogram is only the first step toward prioritizing your breast health. 

So, what does a comprehensive women’s imaging provider look like? Ideally, the right center for you should meet the following criteria: 

  • Board-certified, subspecialized radiologists who have received additional training in breast imaging.
  • Recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence (BICOE), a prestigious designation illustrating the role as a breast imaging leader. 
  • Integrated, comprehensive approach toward breast health including 3D mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, and breast biopsies

A center that checks these three boxes will provide you with the compassionate and top-notch care needed to manage the increased risk of breast cancer due to dense breast tissue. A provider that lacks these three qualities may not have the capabilities or expertise needed to accurately assess your breast health, resulting in additional imaging being sent to another provider who might not have the full picture. 

How Do I Find the Right Center for Me?

Finding the right imaging provider can be time consuming, but luckily, there are online tools that can quickly narrow down your search. The ACR created the “Accredited Facility Search” tool allowing you to identify what women’s imaging providers are near you, and meet the above criteria. Dig through Google no more! 

Another great way to identify the right provider for you is to speak with your health insurance company. They can easily look up a provider within your network that meets whatever criteria you provide for them. Focus on the care you need rather than the surprise bill after the fact. 

For over 80 years, South Jersey Radiology Associates (SJRA) has been recognized as South Jersey’s and Philadelphia’s trusted women’s imaging partner. SJRA is proud to be the region’s first Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, offering a compassionate approach toward your breast health. 

As recognized by fellow doctors, see who from South Jersey Radiology made it onto SJ Magazine’s “2023 Top Doc’s” list here!

Related Articles

Comments are closed.

Inspira Health is Customizing Education Programs with Rowan College of South Jersey

Get SJ Mag in Your Inbox

Subscribe for the latest on South Jersey dining, weekend entertainment, the Shore and much more - sent directly to your inbox.

* indicates required
Email Format