Annual Mammograms for Women with “Dense Breasts”

Dense breasts are breasts with more glandular and connective tissue than fatty tissue. This often occurs after menopause, and may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Preventative measures and a 3D mammogram may be the best solution.
Annual Mammograms for Women with “Dense Breasts”

Last update: 26 March, 2019

If you have dense breasts, don’t be alarmed just yet. First of all, you need to remember that these types of breasts are characterized by having more fibrous tissue, which is associated with a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.

We don’t mean to say that you have a 100% risk of having a tumor in your breast sooner or later. There is a small probability, however, and that can increase if you have a family history of breast cancer.

It’s sufficient to have regular exams to check the morphology and health of your breasts. We’re talking about “prevention,” of course, while remembering that there is one additional risk factor that you shouldn’t neglect.

We’ll give you all the information you need in the article below.

The special features of dense breasts

Let’s start by clarifying a few important things. Dense breasts aren’t always larger breasts with more fatty tissue. That has nothing to do with it.

There are other factors that are also important to remember:

  • When you’re younger, your breasts have the perfect balance between fatty tissue, glandular tissue, and fibrous tissue.
  • As you reach menopause, your breasts become denser. You have more glandular and fibrous connective tissue and less fatty tissue.
  • When performing a mammogram on breasts that have higher density, the results can be more difficult to read and interpret than those who have less dense breasts.

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Dense breasts have more fibrous connective tissue

Dense breasts: something to check and keep in mind

  • According to several studies published in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, women with greater breast density are at a higher risk for breast cancer.
  • Again, we’d like to highlight that this is an additional risk factor. It’s not a guarantee, but something to keep in mind.

For that reason, you should talk with your doctor about getting mammograms on an annual basis instead of every two or three years.

Don’t be alarmed: one in four women have dense breasts

The breasts are made up of three types of tissue: glandular, fatty, and fibrous. When you have dense breasts it simply means that the ratio of fibrous tissue to fatty tissue is higher than usual.

  • While it’s true that the statistics have this factor to consider, there’s another much stronger determinant: your genetic history.
  • If you have no cases of breast cancer among your mother, aunts, or sisters, your risk of developing breast cancer because of having dense breasts alone is low.

But don’t wait: it’s still a good idea to have a mammogram every year. That way, you can feel much more at ease.

When do you develop dense breasts?

As we said earlier, you probably won’t know if your breasts are dense or not. However, there are some risk factors that determine this occurrence.

Menopause happens to all women

  • Menopause: Due to metabolic and hormonal changes between the ages of 50 and 55, the breasts will lose that balance between the glandular, fatty, and fibrous tissues.
  • Also, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle and gain weight, your risk of developing dense breasts is higher.

The genetic component determines whether or not your breasts, over time, will become denser.

Keys to preventing breast cancer in dense breasts

If you have a family history

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that if you have a genetic history of breast cancer, your risk of developing this disease increases.

In this case, preventative measures are necessary. But your doctor will always be able to recommend the best strategies according to your personal situation.

  • If there’s a genetic component, hormone replacement therapy may be the most appropriate course once you reach menopause.
  • You can’t ignore the fact that if you have dense breasts and any female relatives who have suffered from breast cancer, your risk is three times higher.

Guidelines to follow in all cases

  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid becoming overweight
  • Don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle – stay active through aerobic exercise
  • Avoid a diet that’s high in saturated fats, white flour, sugar
  • Follow a Mediterranean diet with abundant amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables, and healthy fatty acids (such as olive oil)
  • Drink plenty of fluids

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3D mammograms: the most reliable test

One of the most common problems found with dense breasts is that they often result in false positives in a traditional mammogram. The proper diagnosis is made more complex because of the density of the breasts.

This is why 3D tomosynthesis is one of the most effective ways to analyze breasts today.

It consists of capturing multiple images of each breast in millimeter “slices.” This technology is effective and offers greater certainty, both for the experts and their patients.

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