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Dense breasts breast cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness: Do you have dense breasts and why it’s important for detection

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we recently watched an interview with Katie Couric on the TODAY show about her breast cancer diagnosis. (Read her essay Why Not Me? on her website about her diagnosis.

In her interview, she talked about the importance of undergoing a mammogram and the importance of learning whether or not you have ‘dense breasts.’ The reason? The denser your breasts, the higher your risk of cancer. 

And more than half of women over 40 in the U.S. have dense breasts. Dense breast tissue also makes it harder for radiologists to see cancer on mammograms. Dense (fibrous and glandular) breast tissue looks white on a mammogram. Breast masses and cancers can also look white, so the dense tissue can make it harder to see them. In contrast, fatty tissue looks almost black on a mammogram, so it’s easier to see a tumor that looks white if most of the breast is fat tissue

How Do I Know If I Have Dense Breasts?

According to Cancer.org, there are 4 categories of breast density. They go from almost all fatty tissue to extremely dense tissue with very little fat. The radiologist decides which of the 4 categories best describes how dense your breasts are. If your mammogram report says that you have dense breast tissue, talk with your healthcare provider about what this means for you. Be sure that your doctor or nurse knows if there’s anything in your medical history that increases your risk for breast cancer.

Any woman who’s already in a high-risk group (based on inherited gene mutations, a strong family history of breast cancer, or other factors) should have an MRI along with her yearly mammogram. 

How to help the cause of breast cancer. Make a pledge to get a mammogram and make a donation (note: many organizations are for-profit; we prefer the non-profits). Together, we can win this fight! 

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