Why Does Breast Density Matter?

Mar 15, 2023
Why Does Breast Density Matter
Hello, Warriors! Welcome to The Breast Place blog and thank you for taking time out of your active schedule to visit! We appreciate our readers to the utmost degree, as we do our patients.

Hello, Warriors! Welcome to The Breast Place blog and thank you for taking time out of your active schedule to visit! We appreciate our readers to the utmost degree, as we do our patients. If this is your first visit to The Breast Place blog, we welcome you. We cover a range of topics here. From breast cancer management to anti-aging skin treatments to helpful tips for maximizing your overall health and wellness—The Breast Place is committed to sharing the best health practices and treatment options with you! Our offices are open and our staff is prepared to answer any questions you may have about your health, your breast cancer risk, and how to reach your aesthetic goals. 

At The Breast Place, we offer several oncoplastic surgical procedures, such as natural reconstruction, nipple-sparing mastectomy, Hidden Scar™, and implant removals. Oncoplastic surgery is distinct from both breast cancer surgery and plastic surgery–though you initially assume oncoplastic surgery to be a mixture of both. Rather, the aim of oncoplastic breast surgery is “to achieve good aesthetic outcomes for women with breast cancers who would have unacceptable outcomes with other BCS techniques, and in addition, enable breast-conserving surgery for larger breast cancers.” While breast cancer surgery prioritizes the eradication of cancerous tissue and plastic surgery prioritizes the cosmetic appearance of the breasts, oncoplastic surgery takes both of these aspects into account when planning for the final outcome. You can find out more information about what to look for in an Oncoplastic surgeon here. 

In our last post, we discussed some of the most common breast problems. Having any issues or concerns with your breasts can be alarming. However, it is important to remember that not every change or problem is breast cancer– There are a variety of breast issues out there, and most are benign, or non-cancerous! We discussed issues such as breast pain, breast lumps, and sore nipples. If you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to check out our last post!

Before we continue with today’s topic, we’d like to make you aware of what we have to offer at The Breast Place this month. It’s March, we’re offering something great: Buy one Secret RF package and get 2 laser genesis treatments for free! Secret RF is a microneedling treatment that promotes anti-aging, and laser genesis is a laser treatment that can diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This is a great way to treat yourself and get ready for Spring! Reach out to us if you have any questions or would like more information!

In today’s blog, we’ll be discussing breast density, what it means, and why it matters. Have you ever been told that you have dense breast tissue after a mammogram, or have you heard about someone who does? It may sound like no big deal, but dense breasts have a higher risk for breast cancer. A woman’s breast consists of three kinds of tissue: Fibrous tissue, glandular tissue, and fatty tissue. The amount of each of these tissues can vary from woman to woman, determining breast density. If you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to keep reading! Let’s get started!

What does it mean to have dense breasts?

First, let’s take a closer look at the tissues that make up a breast. 

  • Fibrous tissue: This tissue essentially holds the breast in place
  • Glandular tissue: This tissue is the part of the breast that makes milk. Together, fibrous and glandular tissue are called fibroglandular tissue.
  • Fatty tissue: This tissue fills the space between the fibrous tissue, lobes, and ducts, and gives the breasts their size and shape.

Breast density refers to the amount of fibroglandular tissue in a woman’s breast compared with the amount of fatty tissue, as seen on a mammogram. (A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast that is used to detect early signs of breast cancer. Check out our blog on everything you need to know about mammograms.) A woman’s breast density is determined by a mammogram, and there are different levels of breast density that are determined by the results of a reporting system called Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS). Generally, there are four categories or levels of density:

1. Breasts that are almost entirely fatty (about 1 in 10 of women or 10% of women)

2. Breasts with scattered areas of fibroglandular density, with the majority of tissue being nondense (about 4 in 10 women or 40% of women)

3. Heterogeneously dense breasts mean that the majority of the breast tissue is dense (about 4 in 10 women or 40% of women)

4. Extremely dense breasts indicate that nearly all of the breast tissue is dense (about 1 in 10 women or 10% of women)

About half of women undergoing routine mammograms have dense breasts. You are more likely to have dense breast tissue if:

  • You are younger. (Breast tissue tends to become less dense as you age.)
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You are taking hormone replacement therapy.
  • You have a lower body weight or body mass index.

Why does breast density matter?

Women with dense breasts have a higher chance of developing breast cancer. While scientists are not completely sure why this is true, research suggests that it may be because glandular tissue is more likely to develop cancer. However, it is important to note that having dense breasts does not increase your likelihood of dying from breast cancer. 

Additionally, dense breast tissue shows up on a mammogram as a solid white area. This is also how possible tumors show up on mammograms. Therefore, dense breast tissue makes it hard to differentiate between tissue and a possible tumor when viewing a mammogram. This means that a tumor may be missed, or other potentially cancerous tissues may be missed. 

What happens if I have dense breast tissue?

If you have been told that you have dense breast tissue, you may want to talk with your doctor or other medical professional about your risk of breast cancer. Keep in mind that there are other factors that put you at risk for breast cancer, including family history. Your doctor will keep these factors in mind to determine your overall risk. Additionally, we invite you to contact us for a consultation with one of our licensed breast specialists. We would be happy to give you recommendations for breast imaging. Different types of breast imaging, other than mammograms, may be beneficial for you in order to detect cancers or other abnormalities that may be missed on a mammogram. For example, you may be a good candidate for breast ultrasounds or breast MRIs. 

As you can see, dense breast tissue may affect the accuracy of your mammograms and can increase your risk of breast cancer. However, speaking with a licensed professional can put you at ease! If you have any concerns at all about your breasts, we strongly encourage you to set up a consultation with one of our licensed providers for a clinical breast exam! We also encourage you to check out our aesthetics and wellness clinic, Empower, which is dedicated to helping you feel more confident in your skin. Empower offers injectable treatments such as Botox, and other facial rejuvenation services such as laser treatment and more! Additionally, we strongly encourage you to reach out to us for a consultation if you have any questions or concerns pertaining to our service areas– We are committed to empowering women, and we are proud to offer treatments and products to help you look and feel your best. Thank you for taking the time to read today’s article and we hope you’ll check back in for future posts about treatments, wellness, and more!