print

Deciphering Dense Breast Tissue: October 3, 2013

Virtually everyone knows someone who’s had breast cancer. With increased visibility, comes heightened awareness, leading many women to wonder whether or not they’re dense.

“There’s a whole spectrum of what’s normal. Some people will have mostly fatty tissue and some people will have mostly glandular tissue, which is mostly dense,” says Dr. Gail Santucci, diagnostic radiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

For screening purpose, breast tissue is broken into four categories, ranging from mostly fatty to mostly dense.  It’s the latter, which draws concern.

“So here’s an example of extremely dense breast tissue you can see the white portion is the glandular tissue and then these black areas are the fatty composition,” says Dr. Santucci.

The concern lies in the relationship to cancer. Dense tissue shows up as white; so does cancer.

“Really the issue with breast density is how well you can see caner through your regular tissue in the mammogram,” says Santucci.

Another issue is associated risk.

“In the past we thought that it didn’t really make a big difference it’s just how you’re made. But it does seem there’s a higher association of breast caner in the denser breast tissue patients,” says Dr. Santucci.

One solution to cut through the clutter to use more advanced technology to screen dense breasts. A traditional mammogram uses x-ray. When dense tissue is involved, ultrasound may be an option.

“Ultrasound is a completely different technology, using sound waves instead of x-rays. And so it just has the ability to kind of travel differently through the tissue and provide you with a different view,” says Dr. Santucci.

Another advanced screening is a 3D mammogram called tomosynthesis.

“Which takes thin mammogram pictures through the breast tissue and you can scroll through those on the computer and kind of see more depth then you can on a 2D mammogram,” says Dr. Santucci.

These tools increase accuracy and help pick up invasive cancers quicker.