Everything You Need to Know about Dense Breast Tissue
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’re hyper-focused on your breast health. Today we’re sharing everything you need to know about dense breast tissue.
Maintaining breast health includes lifestyle habits like a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, not smoking, getting enough sleep, wearing a properly fitting bra, avoiding excessive alcohol and getting regular health screenings. One factor that affects breast health is the density of your breast tissue.
What is Dense Breast Tissue?
Breasts are made up of several components. Glandular tissue includes mammary glands, lobes and ducts that produce milk. Connective tissue is muscle tissue that gives breasts their size and shape. Nerves, lymphatic vessels and blood vessels surround your breasts and extend to your armpits. Fatty tissue fills out the rest of your breasts.
Dense Breast Tissue and Mammograms
Dense breast tissue cannot be detected by touch or sight, only through a mammogram. Breasts are categorized in four groups according to density: mostly fatty, scattered density, consistent density and extremely dense.
Women with dense breast tissue are at four to six times higher risk of breast cancer than women with fattier breasts. This is why determining your breast density during your first mammogram may change the course of your breast health exam schedule moving forward.
Also, dense breast tissue makes reading a mammogram more difficult. Lumps and potentially cancerous tumors appear similarly to dense breast tissue on x-rays. The two can be confused. If your radiologist is unsure about your scans, she may order further diagnostic tests.
Causes of Dense Breast Tissue
Dense breast tissue may be a result of the following:
- Youth – younger women tend to have denser breast tissue. Breast density often wanes with age.
- Never being pregnant
- Taking hormone replacement therapy
- Being overweight as an adolescent or adult
- Higher birth weight
While you can choose lifestyle habits that reduce your risk of breast cancer and improve your breast health, you cannot change your breast density. However, knowing your level of dense breast tissue can help inform you and your doctors on the best screening options for your breast health.
Sources: Healthline and Mayo Clinic
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