When it comes to breast health, it’s important to go far beyond what meets the eye. Breasts have 3 main parts: lobules, ducts, and connective tissue that can either be soft and fatty or dense and fibrous. If you have more fibrous tissue you may be diagnosed with dense breasts by your doctor, but what does that mean?
If you have dense breasts, don’t panic! This is actually quite common. It is statistically thought that roughly half the women between the ages of 40 and 74 have dense breasts. This can be naturally occurring or a side effect of medication. Breasts often get less dense over time. It is important to know if your breasts are dense because women with dense breasts are more likely to have false-negative mammograms. However, also know that women with dense breasts have a higher breast cancer risk.
Women’s breasts often get softer as they get older. Women who decide to take hormone replacement therapy after menopause might also notice that their breasts become denser. It can also be an inherited condition. Genetics play a big part when it comes to breast size, density, and health. Dense breasts are usually genetic.
Doctors will use a mammogram to determine how dense breasts are, and if there are any tumors. Usually, fat looks dark on these X-rays and cancerous lesions look white. The problem is that healthy dense breast tissue can also look white, making diagnosing breast cancer in dense breasts very tricky. Doctors may need to use other techniques, like ultrasound, to find out exactly what is going on.
So, if you have dense breast tissue, fibrous tissue, or other similar issue, don’t panic! You should still check for lumps just like any other woman, and report anything you find to your doctor.