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Dense breast
on 13 Dec 2022 1:06 PM

Women with dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer. Having dense breasts is common, and it isn’t something you can change.

You can’t feel dense breast tissue during a breast self-exam, nor can your healthcare provider during a clinical breast exam. Only a radiologist looking at a mammogram can tell if a woman has dense breasts. After you have a mammogram, the report you receive may mention breast density. Your healthcare provider can also tell you if your mammogram shows that you have dense breasts.



Breasts are made of fibrous tissue, glandular tissue and fat. Breast density describes the amount of fibrous and glandular tissue compared with the amount of fat. Dense breasts have more fibrous and glandular tissue than fatty tissue. For most women, breasts become less dense with age. But in some women, there’s little change.

The mammogram is the gold standard in breast cancer screening: Most breast cancers can be seen on a mammogram, even in women who have dense breast tissue. However, having dense breasts may make it harder for doctors to see signs of cancer on a mammogram, so an ultrasound may be recommended to supplement your mammogram. If you have dense breasts, talk with your healthcare provider about getting screened with ultrasound as well as a mammogram. The addition of a breast ultrasound to a mammogram may be more effective in finding cancer in dense breasts.



At The Breast Center at Montefiore Nyack Hospital, we offer the full range of screening services. Our board-certified and fellowship-trained radiologists have access to the most sophisticated technology to help them detect breast cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages. The Breast Center has been designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. Only a small percentage of imaging centers receive this designation of excellence. Learn more about our screening services below.

3D Mammography, also known as 3D Tomosynthesis, uses multiple X-rays to create a 3D image of the breast. It’s the most advanced imaging available for breast cancer detection at the lowest possible radiation dose. 3D mammography is more effective than traditional 2D mammography in detecting cancers earlier and decreases the need for women to be called back for additional testing. This type of mammogram is very good for women with dense breasts, which can make it harder for the radiologist reading the test to see a cancer.

Breast Ultrasound uses sound waves to make images. It’s used on its own or in combination with a mammogram to provide additional detail about an area. Ultrasound can sometimes find small cancers not seen on mammograms.

Breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) expands our ability to diagnose early-stage breast cancers that may not be visible on mammography or ultrasound. It’s a highly sensitive exam that uses radio waves and powerful magnets to create detailed images of breast tissue. Doctors may add MRI to annual mammogram and ultrasound screening for some women who have a very strong family history of breast cancer, a breast cancer gene or other high risk characteristics.