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World Dense Breast Day: Raising awareness about a risk factor for breast cancer

World Dense Breast Day, celebrated on the last Wednesday of September, is a day to raise awareness for women with dense breasts and the increased risk of breast cancer associated with breast density. 

What does it mean to have dense breast tissue?

Having dense breast tissue is normal and common (40 to 50 percent of women ages 40 or older have dense breasts). It simply means that you have more fibrous and glandular tissue and less fatty tissue in your breasts. Breast density is determined by a mammogram, which is a minimal X-ray of the breast. Knowing your breast density is vital to your breast health. Most states (including New York State) have laws requiring facilities to notify women of their breast density at the time of their mammogram. By September 2024 the FDA has ordered all states in the USA to notify women and their health care providers of their breast density type. 

Why is dense breast tissue a risk factor for breast cancer?

Each time you have a mammogram, your mammogram report will indicate your density as DENSE or NOT DENSE. Dense breast tissue can make it more challenging to see cancer on a mammogram. This is because dense tissue can appear white on a mammogram, just like cancer and can mask a new abnormality. As a result, cancer can be hidden in dense breast tissue and not seen on a mammogram. 

What can women with dense breast tissue do to reduce their risk of breast cancer?

  • Get regular mammograms. Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early, even in women with dense breasts.
  • Consider supplemental screening tests. Supplemental screening tests, such as breast ultrasound or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), can help to find cancer in women with dense breasts that may not be seen on a mammogram.
  • Talk to your doctor about your individual risk factors. Your doctor can help you to assess your risk of breast cancer and develop a personalized screening plan

In addition, talk to your friends and family about dense breasts and the importance of breast cancer screening.

Resources for Women with Dense Breasts
Dense Breasts: 5 Facts You Should Know

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