Breast Density and Risk of Breast Cancer

Did you know that having a dense breast tissue increases your risk of developing a breast cancer?

Mammography providers in almost 40 states are required to give patients with breast density some information about this risk.  Washington state is not one of them.  Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to require providers to tell women if they have this risk factor for breast cancer.  If implemented, it would be the first update to the mammography regulations in more than 20 years.  

When the breast tissue is dense, it is more difficlut to detect underlying cancer because the density may oscure the presence of mass.  However, most people are not aware (including many physicians) that breast density is also an independent risk factor for breast cancer.  This is a very common finding affecting perhaps half of all women over the age of 40.  3-D mammogram has been recommended as a screening method of choice in women wit dense breast tissue.  Some doctors are concerned that providing additional information about breast density may lead to more unnecessary testing and anxiety on the part of women.  

Currently, there isn't even a uniform guidelines as to when a woman should start having mammograms and how often it should be performed.  Recommendations among medical organizations vary widely which is confusing to women.  

These are the decisions that should be made jointly between the patient and her physician.  Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer in women.  One in eight or nine women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.  Important thing is to be aware that breast density does increase the risk of breast cancer and that additional surveillance may be in order.  

Author
PAUL H EUN, MD, FACOG Dr. Eun is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist at Dedicated Women's Health Specialists. Dr. Eun has many areas of special interest and expertise which include minimally invasive surgery, pelvic prolapse, and incontinence. In addition, he is a principal investigator for many clinical research projects in women's health.

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