Living Proof That Screening Saves
Living Proof That Screening Saves

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Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women, affecting one in every eight women in the United States. At Charlotte Radiology, we believe the key to beating this statistic and detecting breast cancer early is yearly, quality mammograms (starting at age 40), monthly self breast exams and regular clinical examination.

Breast Density

What is the Breast Density Notification and Awareness Bill?
The Breast Density Notification and Awareness Bill, approved by North Carolina legislation, require all mammography providers to inform women of their breast density level as interpreted on their mammogram.

Why is breast density important?
The presence of dense tissue may make it more difficult to detect abnormalities in the breast and may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Dense tissue appears white on a mammogram. Since lumps, non-cancerous and cancerous, also appear white, mammograms may be less effective for women with dense breasts.

What is breast density?
Density measures the amount of fatty, glandular and fibrous tissue in the breast. A dense breast consists of more glandular and fibrous tissue than fat. It is not a measure of breast firmness; therefore, a mammogram is the only way to determine your density. Dense tissue is relatively common and found in more than forty percent (40%) of women.

How do I find out if I have dense breasts?
Breast density is determined by the radiologist reading your mammogram and will be included on the mammography report sent to you and your physician. A 4-level scale (pictured below) is used to categorize density. Breast density will be assessed each year and may vary based on radiologist interpretation as well as naturally occurring changes in breast tissue.

A 4-level scale is used to categorize density:

Almost Entirely Fatty Scattered Areas of Fibroangular Density Heterogeneously Dense Extremely Dense

Screening for women with dense breast tissue (heterogeneously or extremely dense)
Women with dense breast tissue should still get an annual mammogram. Mammograms remain the only medical imaging test proven to reduce breast cancer deaths. If you have dense breasts, please talk to your doctor. Together, you can decide if additional screening exams can benefit you. Charlotte Radiology offers the following:

  • Tomosynthesis (also known as 3D mammography) is a digital mammogram that creates multiple images or "slices" through the breast tissue, providing better visualization of breast abnormalities, in particular for women with dense breasts.
  • Studies have shown that breast ultrasound and/or MRI, in conjunction with mammography, may improve breast cancer detection in women with dense breasts.

Screening for women without dense breast tissue (fatty or scattered fibroglandular)
Women without dense breast tissue should still get an annual mammogram.  This breast tissue type is easier to evaluate for breast cancer and is not considered an independent risk factor. Mammograms are most effective at detecting breast cancer in women that have mostly fatty breast tissue. Therefore, we recommend annual mammograms along with monthly self-breast exams and yearly breast exams by your physician.

Other resources
» The American College of Radiology Breast Density Brochure
» NC House Bill 467: Breast Density Notification & Awareness
» Breast Density.Info
» Mammography Saves Lives

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