How Breast Density Determines The Best Breast Screening Test

breast density, breast cancer screening, mammogram, mammography, dense breast, breast density

At Bay Imaging Consultants, we stress the importance of regular mammograms and breast screenings. While mammograms are the standard for breast imaging, factors may play a role into whether or not additional imaging tests are needed.  Breast MRI and ultrasound are often suggested for women at risk of breast cancer, which includes women with high breast density. Here’s a closer look at how breast density affects which screening test is best for you.

Let’s talk about breast density.

Many women may be unaware of what type of breasts they have and how this can affect their need for a specific imaging test. Women that have dense breasts simply have more supportive tissue than fatty tissue, which can make mammogram interpretation difficult. With half of women who have dense breasts not even knowing that they do, patients may not know how this can affect their screening results. Doctors are unsure why, but women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.

So, why does breast density affect breast cancer screening?

Knowing if you have dense breasts is so important because it can affect your screening results. Women with dense breasts are more likely to undergo a mammogram and have signs of breast cancer go undetected. Mammograms of dense breasts can be hard to interpret because cancer and dense breast tissue often appear the same. This makes identifying signs of cancer, especially in the early stages, very difficult from a traditional mammo.

Are other breast imaging tests more effective than mammography?

While researchers are still unsure which imaging test is most effective, mammography is still the standard test for breast cancer screenings. Other imaging tests can be used to supplement mammograms and ensure the results are as accurate as possible. 3-D mammograms, breast MRI’s, and breast ultrasounds are the three imaging tests that are typically suggested, and many of these alternative tests work well for patients with higher breast density.

3-D mammograms allow doctors to see multiple images of the breast tissue, which can help with issues like overlapping in traditional mammograms. Breast ultrasounds are another beneficial breast imaging tool because they create images of the breast using sound waves as opposed to x-rays. Ultrasounds are able to differentiate between solid lumps and cysts in the breast tissue. Breast MRI’s are the most sensitive breast imaging test and are typically reserved for patients that have other breast cancer risk factors.

Depending on your doctor and your specific circumstances, the need for additional screenings may not be necessary. If you need a breast screening test, you can schedule an appointment at one of our 15 women’s imaging locations across the Bay Area. From mammography to breast ultrasounds, we are ACR Accredited in breast imaging which means we are held to the highest standards in radiology.