Martha Jefferson Monday: What does it Mean if I have Dense Brea - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Martha Jefferson Monday: What does it Mean if I have Dense Breasts?

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Recently, there has been more and more talk of women being told that they have dense breasts. But what does that mean, and will screenings for breast cancer still work for these women? Dr. Lynne Dengel, as breast surgeon at Virginia Breast Care, says women shouldn't be afraid of being given a dense breast diagnosis.

"Dense breasts are very common," noted Dr. Dengel. "They are not abnormal, it is not a disease and it's very normal to have dense breasts."

According to Dr. Dengel, close to 50% of women have dense breasts. It's more common in younger women, but can affect people at any age.

"The density of the breast is based on the ratio of the breast tissue to the fat behind the breast tissue," shared Dr. Dengel. "Women who have more glandular tissue in their breasts have denser breasts, where a woman who has fattier tissue in the breasts tends to have a less dense breasts."

A mammogram is the only way to determine whether a woman has dense breasts. Mammograms take a picture of the breast, and as you can see in these images, dense tissues shows up whiter, and fattier tissue shows up black.

If you do have dense breasts, doctors will notify you after your mammogram. Although it can be more difficult to detect breast cancer, Dr. Dengel says mammograms are still key.

"While it's true that mammograms are not as good at detecting breast cancer in women with dense breasts, that's really only true on the extreme side of the spectrum, and it still can detect calcium, which is a warning sign."

Depending on your risk for developing breast cancer, doctors may recommend an MRI or ultrasound for a double check, as those test results aren't affect by dense breasts.

In the end though, doctors say the take-away is not to worry, the diagnosis is normal.

For more information on this topic, call Health Connection at (434) 654-7009.

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