Why is Breast Density Important?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 31, 2016

screening-mammo-negative

This image shows a negative screening mammogram of 45-year-old woman with dense breast tissue.

Approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are publishing a three-part Breast Imaging Series throughout October. Today’s post, the final in our series, discusses breast density.

Breasts contain fibrous, glandular, and fatty tissue. Generally, breasts are considered dense if they contain a lot of fibrous and glandular tissue and less fat. Breast density is classified on a mammogram report in one of four ways:

  • Almost entirely fatty
  • Scattered areas of fibroglandular density
  • Heterogenously dense
  • Extremely dense

According to the American College of Radiology, 80 percent of women in the United States fall into one of the middle two categories, 10 percent have almost entirely fatty breasts, and the remaining 10 percent have extremely dense breast tissue.

Breast density is important for several reasons. Dense breast tissue may increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Also, detection of breast cancer using mammography is more difficult in women with dense breast tissue. Read More »

Who is Reading Your Mammogram?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 21, 2016

Radiology technician examens mammography test on location

When choosing a location for your mammogram, it is important to look for a center that performs a high volume of mammograms and has radiologists who are dedicated to breast imaging.

Approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are publishing a three-part Breast Imaging Series throughout October. Today’s post, the second in our series, discusses the importance of specialized training in reading mammograms.

When choosing a location for your mammogram, it is important to look for a center that performs a high volume of mammograms. Preferably, the radiologists in the center should be dedicated to breast imaging. Breast imaging specialists devote their time exclusively to breast imaging, including mammography, breast MRI, and breast ultrasound.

The detection of very subtle changes in early breast cancer can be very challenging. Studies have shown that radiologists specializing in breast imaging outperform non-specialist radiologists in detecting breast cancer.  Furthermore, the more mammograms and other breast images that radiologists read, the better they become at identifying these subtle changes, with higher accuracy. Read More »

Breast Cancer Screening: Understanding the Guidelines

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 4, 2016

Digital 3D mammography (digital breast tomosynthesis), the latest technology used in mammography, takes multiple images of each breast from different angles. It has been shown to improve earlier detection of breast cancers and reduce the number of call backs for repeat imaging.

Contributor: Dr. Catherine Giess is Chief of the Division of Breast Imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School.

Approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This post is designed to outline breast cancer screening guidelines.

“Mammography is a very important screening tool for early breast cancer detection, but there are several different guidelines for when to start and how often to undergo mammography,” says Dr. Giess.  “This can be confusing for many women.”

The American College of Radiology recommends annual screening mammography beginning at age 40.  The ACS guidelines (outlined below) emphasize screening based on a woman’s individual risk of developing breast cancer and her personal preferences.

 

When should I start?

A woman’s first mammogram serves as a baseline to compare results of subsequent mammograms.

  • Women should begin discussing breast cancer screening with their health care providers at age 40. From 40-44 years of age, women have the option to begin annual screening if they choose to do so.  All women should begin yearly mammograms by age 45.
  • Women who are at higher risk for developing breast cancer, such as women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, should discuss their own personal risk factors with their health care providers, and may need to start screening earlier.

Read More »