The term “dense breasts” may sound straightforward, but do you know how to tell if you have them, or the health implications they may bring? In this video, we’re explaining dense breast tissue and how it can affect your breast cancer risk.
Breasts aren’t exclusively comprised of fat. They’re actually made from both fatty and non-fatty tissue. The non-fatty tissue consists of milk glands, milk ducts, and other types of supportive, fibrous tissue. Dense breasts have more non-fatty tissue than fatty tissue.
Simple enough, right? Not so fast. Figuring out whether or not you have dense breasts isn’t always easy, since you can’t tell just by feeling or looking at them. The only way to know whether you have dense breasts is with a mammogram.
Younger women are more likely to have dense breasts, but it’s possible to have them at any age. The density of your breast tissue plays an important role in your health, too. For example, dense breast tissue can make it harder to spot cancer. On mammograms, fatty breast tissue looks dark, while dense breast tissue looks white. Unfortunately, tumors also appear white on mammograms, which can make it harder for doctors to distinguish them from dense breast tissue.
And while experts aren’t sure why, women with dense breasts may have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer compared to women with less dense breasts. It’s unclear how important of a risk factor dense breast tissue is for the disease, but doctors may recommend more frequent mammograms, or additional screening tests like ultrasounds or MRIs, for women with dense breasts.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to know your family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your breast cancer risk, and get in touch with your healthcare provider ASAP if you notice any changes in your breasts. Want to learn more? Health.