Are You Dense? Why It’s a Good Idea to Know Your Breast Tissue

 

Today’s schedule included a medical checkup that involved a Propofol-induced nap this afternoon. I had planned to cut shirts afterwards–until I realized that handling a rotary blade in my groggy state was a bad idea. It’s also probably a bad idea to write a blog post in this state, but the doctor’s office reminded me of the mammogram I had earlier this month, and I have to tell you about it.

The mammogram itself wasn’t that remarkable (except I noticed once again that large-breasted women probably have an easier time positioning their breasts between the two plates). What was remarkable was the ultrasound that followed.

It turns out that I have dense breast tissue. The good news about dense tissue is less sagging. The bad news is that if there’s any breast cancer, it may not show up in a mammogram. According to the Imaginis women’s health site, “As a woman ages, her breasts become less dense and the space is filled with fatty tissue shown as dark areas on mammography x-rays. It is usually easier for radiologists to detect breast cancer in older women because abnormal¬†[white] areas are easier to spot.”

dense breast comparison

These images come from the NYT article that I link to at the very end of this post.

Although a mammogram may not be effective for catching masses in dense breasts, it is good for one thing: identifying dense breasts. Simply pressing your breasts with your fingers won’t reveal whether you have dense breasts.

Because of my dense breasts, I had an ultrasound immediately after the mammogram. It was fascinating to see the interior of my breasts live on the computer screen. They looked exactly like the image on the left, but since I hadn’t researched this issue ahead of time, when I saw so much white, I assumed the dark spots were the potential problem areas!

Now that I understand what “dense breast tissue” means, I’m less worried about what I saw, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that my mammogram didn’t reveal any issues. However, if I didn’t realize that I have dense breasts, I might have a very false sense of security from my mammogram. I’m very thankful to live in one of the states that require notification to women who have dense breast tissue, but I’m troubled that it’s even an issue as to whether women should be notified if they have dense breasts!

 

 

 

Comments

  1. seems we are on the same schedule–I had a prop. procedure 2 days ago and a mammo and ultrasound today. I must disagree about the sagging..maybe having had children causes it, but there is plenty going on with these dense 30Gs

  2. I was talking to my mom last night about other things and mammograms came up- she hadn’t heard about dense tissue before but despite now being 32A/B (she likes to thank to my brother and myself for that, she used to be my size when she was my age) she needs an ultrasound to confirm being clear findings. She is due for one so she will probably hear from her doctor about dense breast tissue since PA passed the bill requiring notification this year.