Women in Ohio Now Get Breast Density Information from Mammograms

Health Minute

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Signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and effective in March 2015, mammography providers are now required to tell women when they have high levels of breast density, according to the American Society of Radiologic TechnologistsOff Site Icon (ASRT).Women in Ohio who recently received mammograms might have started seeing a new piece of information among their results.

Breast density refers to the amount of fibrous tissue versus fatty tissue in the breast. The more fibrous tissue (and less fatty tissue) a breast has, the more dense it is considered, according to the American Cancer SocietyOff Site Icon (ACS).

Though having dense breast tissue is neither uncommon nor abnormal, there is a concern because women with a lot of dense breast tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer than women with very little dense breast tissue, according to the ACS. 

Because dense breast tissue and lumps (both the cancerous and non-cancerous kinds) show up white on a mammogram, it can be difficult to identify lumps in women who have high breast density, according to the ACS. 

The density of your breast tissue can be seen on mammograms. There are four levels of breast density, and the new law requires that women with breast densities in the highest two levels be notified, according to the ACS.

Patients will receive a summary with their mammogram that includes the following statement, according to the ASRT:

“Your mammogram demonstrates that you have dense breast tissue, which could hide abnormalities. Dense breast tissue, in and of itself, is a relatively common condition. Therefore, this information is not provided to cause undue concern; rather it is to raise your awareness and promote discussion with your health care provider regarding the presence of dense breast tissue in addition to other risk factors.”

If you have dense breast tissue, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what a good next step would be to help check for breast cancer. 

In most cases, it is important to continue getting an annual mammogram, whether or not you have dense breast tissue, according to the ACS. If you also have a strong family history of breast cancer or carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 cancer genes, you already have a high risk of breast cancer and should have an annual MRI along with your mammogram.

Women who have dense breast tissue and no other major breast cancer risks are considered at moderate risk of getting breast cancer, according to the ACS. It is not recommended for women at moderate risk to get annual MRIs.

This is because even though ultrasounds and MRIs can find breast cancer that mammograms miss, they also often find things that are not cancer, according to the ACS. These tests might not be covered by your insurance. 

Also, results of ultrasound and MRI tests often are inconclusive and lead to more, possibly unnecessary, testing, including biopsies, according to the ACS.

Whether you have high or low breast density, talking with your health care provider can help you determine the best steps for you to take to help prevent breast cancer. Premier Health Specialists (PPN) also can help you with your breast care needs. 

PPN’s breast care services include care for benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) breast conditions with procedures that include biopsies, lumpectomies, mastectomies, MRIs, sentinel node evaluations, ultrasounds, and more.

For more information about dense breast tissue and other breast care topics, talk with your doctor or find a physician.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.