Am I dense? Yes. And I’m not alone. According to the website www.areyoudense.org:
*Two-thirds of pre-menopausal women and one-quarter of post-menopausal women have dense breast tissue.
*Cancer turns up five times more in women with extremely dense breasts than those with the most fatty tissue.
Know thy breasts
I believe women must be smart and pro-active about breast care. I scheduled my annual mammogram recently along with an additional ultrasound screening because I have “extremely dense” breasts and other risk factors.
I only know I have this type of breast tissue because I requested the radiologist’s copy from my doctor—otherwise, I’d be clueless. She and I are pro-active about my annual exams, and a “regular” mammogram won’t do. We don’t do a breast MRI because of cost and my high deductible insurance plan, which has turned out to be a big mistake.
While I waited, the technician suggested I have digital breast tomosynthesis—tomo means “slice” in Greek—imaging (DBT), since it was now available at Hoag Hospital in Orange County where I live. Ultimately, it felt no different—yes, breasts are still “squished”—but its results are markedly superior in accuracy, able to “see through” overlapping tissue like mine, much like a CT scan.
How it works
Advances in digital mammography machines and software can create a three dimensional (3D) X-ray image of the breast (called breast tomosynthesis). The machine takes multiple two dimensional (2D) X-ray images. Computer software combines the 2D images into a 3D image. While it is not yet clear whether breast tomosynthesis will become a standard breast cancer screening tool, this new technology is generating a buzz in health care because of its ability to reduce “false positives.” And it’s one more tool in the arsenal for us “dense” women.
Only a few hospitals in the U. S. have the technology, but more will soon. Eleven test sites participated in the study that began two years ago and culminated in FDA approval earlier this year. Ask your health care provider what your options are.