Dense Breasts

Mammograms reveal hidden details about your breasts, including whether you have dense breasts. Nearly half of women over 40 who have mammograms have dense breasts. 

While it doesn’t affect the appearance of your breasts, the condition is a risk factor for breast cancer and requires advanced mammography. 

At Maiden Lane Medical in Manhattan, the team offers state-of-the-art 3D mammograms to evaluate your breast health. Call the office or schedule an appointment online today if you’re due for a mammogram or have concerns about your breast health.

What Are Dense Breasts?

Dense breast tissue refers to mammogram results showing a higher proportion of glandular and fibrous tissue compared to fatty tissue. 

Your breasts consist of three types of tissue. 

Fibrous connective tissue holds your breast in place. Glandular tissue forms lobes that produce breast milk. Glandular breast tissue also includes the ducts that carry milk to your nipple. Fatty tissue fills the rest of your breast, creating the size and shape of your breasts. 

Having more dense breast tissue is relatively common. Approximately 40% of women have evenly dense breast tissue, and 10% have extremely dense breast tissue. 

Another 40% of women have a few areas of dense breast tissue scattered throughout their breasts, and only 10% of women have breasts of nearly all fatty tissue. 

A woman in Manhattan, NY asking her doctor about her dense breasts.

What is the Cause of Dense Breast Tissue? 

Your genes influence the consistency of your breast tissue. Other factors that affect your breast density include your age, whether you’ve had children, and if you use hormone therapy for menopause

Your breasts are more likely to be dense if you’re younger or if you haven’t had children. Menopause-related hormone therapy can increase your breast density later in life. 

How Do You Identify Dense Breast Tissue?

Our radiologist identifies breast density while examining your mammogram. The images show the amount and distribution of dense (fibrous and glandular) tissue. 

For example, if you have primarily fatty breasts, your mammogram is dark as the X-ray passes through fat easily. However, if you have dense breasts, your mammogram reveals lighter patches as your fibrous and glandular tissue blocks the X-ray.

How Do Dense Breasts Affect Mammograms?

Dense breast tissue can make a mammogram more challenging to read. You’re more likely to require advanced mammography and breast ultrasound imaging to create sufficiently detailed images of your breast tissue.

The dense tissue can hide or disguise tumors or abnormal breast tissue. If you have dense breasts, you might be called back for follow-up testing, inducing extra mammograms, MRIs, or biopsies.

Are Dense Breasts a Risk Factor for Breast Cancer?

Yes, dense breasts are considered a breast cancer risk factor. Women with dense breast tissue have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to those with less dense breasts. 

However, it’s important to remember that having dense breasts alone does not guarantee breast cancer, and regular breast cancer screening, including additional imaging like ultrasound or MRI, can help detect abnormalities early, improving outcomes for women with dense breasts and other breast cancer risk factors.

Should I Have More Breast Cancer Screenings if I Have Dense Breasts?

Your provider here at Maiden Lane Medical provides personalized advice on screening for breast cancer. In most cases, women with dense breasts require advanced 3D mammograms and breast ultrasounds. Fortunately, we offer this state-of-the-art testing here in our Midtown office. 

Here in New York State, we’re required to notify you if your breast tissue is dense. Additionally, your insurance should cover extra testing required because of your breast density. 

Call the office today or schedule your mammogram online today if you’re due for a screening to detect breast cancer or have any concerns about breast cancer.

Medically Reviewed By

Marina Arutyunyan DO, MPH
Board Certified Gynecologist