Are your breasts dense and what to do next?Are your breasts dense? What’s inside this 38 DDD?
After a trip to Michaels I decorated a bra with question marks to help remind me that you can’t always tell by looking and likewise a clinical exam may miss an early breast cancer.
Finding breast cancer as early as possible
As a clinician, I worry about missing an early breast cancer that could be lurking within or may be too difficult to see on a mammogram. Don’t get me wrong, mammograms are the First and Best step for breast cancer screening and yet, there are times when we must look differently and go beyond so that we find breast cancer as early as possible.
Early Detection = Better Outcomes
When breast cancers are found early, when they’re small and they haven’t spread, the treatment options are also much less drastic and severe. For many women, that means a lumpectomy instead of mastectomy and a choice about chemo that may only involve taking a pill and not having weekly IV infusions. According to the National Cancer Institute, early detection with mammography has led to a 15-20% reduction in deaths from breast cancer.
What does breast density have to do with breast cancer?
For women with dense breasts, finding a early breast cancer can be like trying to find a “snowball in a snowstorm”. You see on a mammogram, breast cancers appear white on a gray background of breast tissue. When the breasts are dense, the entire breast looks white, making it virtually impossible to see a new breast cancer.
What should I do if my breasts are dense?
If you find out that your breasts are dense, as I just did with my most recent mammogram, then ask for an ultrasound. You can have a hand-held ultrasound or do what I’m doing and have an Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS).
Research has shown that for women with dense breasts, simply adding ultrasound will help detect about 30% more breast cancers. I’m lucky, because the Breast Health Center where I have my mammograms and where I send my patients at El Camino Hospital, also has the capability to do an Automated Breast Ultrasound within days.
If you need more information
You can download a free brochure from El Camino Hospital’s High Risk Breast Health Center for more information.
If you’d like information on Breast Density Legislation, go to the URL below for the Are You Dense non-profit organization that has helped make sure that women around the country are now being informed of their breast density.
Disclosure: I am working with El Camino Hospital to help spread the word about all the life-saving services available to people not only here in Silicon Valley but around the globe.