Breast cancer is a disease that continues to rise among women. In recent studies, it has been found that women with dense breast tissue are at a greater risk of developing this dreaded disease. Because dense breasts lack much of the fatty tissue of normal breast tissue, it is more difficult for tumors to show on a typical mammogram. Fatty tissue shows up as white on a mammogram and this allows the tumors to show up more clearly.
Among women, normally around 46% have dense breast tissue. Dense tissue increases the risk of breast cancer up to six times. In women with this type of breast tissue there is a greater need for further imaging studies to rule out cancer. Studies such as MRI screenings and ultrasound studies, can help to find tumors and growths more effectively than mammograms alone.
Prevention is the key to controlling breast cancer in women. It has been proven that these steps can help to lessen the risk of breast cancer:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit alcohol intake
- Stop smoking or never start
Doctors recommend that women who have dense breast tissue follow a strict protocol of screenings each year. They should self-examine their breasts monthly to report any changes or growths in the breast tissue. A doctor should conduct a yearly breast exam as well. Finally, women with dense breast tissue should have a yearly digital mammogram along with a MRI and ultrasound. With all of these forms of screening, cancers can be found much earlier and can be better treated.
The only way to be sure if a woman has dense breast tissue is through a mammogram. A doctor cannot tell through a physical exam what type of tissue lies beneath. While these extra screenings of ultrasound tests and MRI screenings are much more effective at finding cancers, they also have a high level of false positives.
Most insurance companies do not cover extra screenings for women who have dense breast tissue. These tests can cost as much as $300 out-of-pocket. For those who do have dense breast tissue, these tests can be a lifesaver.