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Mamamography Breast Density Reporting

by Amber Donovan
Fri, Apr 4th 2014 02:00 pm

(Titusville, March 19, 2014) Titusville Area Hospital Diagnostic Imaging wants their patients to know that there is something new being added to mammography reports, breast tissue density.

Breast tissue density refers to the way a person's breast appears on a mammogram and not the way it feels or appears.  Breast tissue is either fat or fibroglandular, the fibrous tissue and the glands that produce milk during a woman's child-bearing years.  Fatty tissue is transparent to x-rays and appears near black on a mammogram.  Dense tissue stops x-rays and appears white on the mammogram.  Unfortunately cancers are also white on mammography. 

Women with breasts that are almost entirely fat, or that are categorized as having scattered densities are considered to have low breast tissue density, and your screening mammogram should be sufficient to find even small breast cancers.

When breast tissue density is higher, however, it begins to impact the ability of the radiologist to find small cancers.  We refer to heterogeneously dense and extremely dense mammograms as having high breast tissue density.

The only way to routinely determine breast tissue density is from a mammogram.  In the past, the determination of breast density has been subjectively made by the radiologist, and this can be quite difficult, particularly between scattered and heterogeneous density, leading to variations between physicians.  To eliminate this variability, Titusville Area Hospital is using technology that automatically and objectively determines the volumetric density of each person's breast tissue from the information contained in a screening mammogram. 

High breast tissue density is perfectly normal condition, but it may affect the ability of the radiologist to find cancers on the mammogram, particularly the very small cancers that have more and better treatment options.  A person with high breast tissue density may have a screening breast ultrasound examination or, if the person is otherwise at higher risk for breast cancer, may have a breast MRI. 

Medical evidence shows that mammogram is still the first line in breast cancer screening, adding one of these other technologies can substantially improve cancer detection in people with high breast tissue density.   The decision of whether to add supplementary screening is one that women with high density tissue should share with their physicians, and is the reason that Titusville Area Hospital has begun reporting breast tissue density in our patient reports.