Women with dense breasts face higher risk of cancer

  • Department of:
  • Adena Regional Medical Center

Call Adena Cancer Center today at 740-542-3030 or request an appointment online.

In the war on breast cancer, awareness is growing about the difference between “dense” and “fatty” breasts.

Women with dense breasts are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer. And because dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram, tumors can be difficult to detect.

But the National Cancer Institute recently released some good news. While women with dense breasts are at higher risk for getting breast cancer, they are not more likely to die from breast cancer than other women.

The study tracked 9,000 breast cancer patients and found that once diagnosed, the women with dense breasts responded well to treatment. Their cancer did not appear to be more aggressive or harder to treat, and their survival rate mirrored that of patients with fatty breasts.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

An estimated 10 percent of women have what doctors would classify as “extremely dense breasts.” Dense breasts can only be diagnosed through an imaging test, such as a mammogram, and not through a clinical exam.

Because cancer is harder to spot in women at the top of the density scale, four states have passed laws requiring mammogram providers to notify patients if they have dense breasts. (Those states are Connecticut, Texas, Virginia and, most recently, New York.) The idea is to empower women to schedule regular exams and request additional tests if needed.

The American Cancer Society suggests starting annual mammograms at age 40 if you have normal risk. But if you have high-risk factors, such as a strong family history of breast cancer, your doctor might recommend a different screening schedule.

If you would like more information, please call 740-542-3030.

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