What Are Dense Breasts?
Breast tissue is composed of dense fibroglandular tissue (milk glands and ducts, muscle and connective tissue) and non-dense fatty tissue. The more fibroglandular tissue you have, the denser your breasts are. Dense breast tissue is very common and not abnormal. However, dense breast tissue is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer and, in addition, makes breast cancer screening
Nearly half of all women age 40 and older who have mammograms are found to have dense breasts (either heterogeneously or extremely dense). Women with 50 percent or higher breast density are three times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women with less than 10 percent breast density (Journal of the National
Cancer Institute, Aug 2011).
Breast density is not based on how your breasts feel, and is not related to breast size or firmness. Breast density can only be determined with a mammogram. All Princeton Radiology SmartMammTM (mammogram) reports include your type of breast density, along with your lifetime risk assessment of breast cancer – to help you and your doctor determine the right monitoring plan for you.
Mammograms are the gold standard for breast cancer screening. The enhanced early detection capabilities of 3D mammograms benefit all women, especially those with dense breasts. However, some early-stage cancers are more difficult to detect on mammograms alone. That is because dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram and nodules (both benign and cancerous) also appear white.
WHAT IS A SMART BREAST MRI™?
Breast MRI is a painless imaging exam without ionizing radiation. You lie comfortably face down in the MRI machine, while an extremely safe contrast agent is typically administered intravenously. The MRI machine then uses magnets and radio saves to produce detailed 3-dimensional images of the breast tissue.
On the breast MRI, the intravenous contrast agency becomes more concentrated in areas of cancer growth, showing up as white areas against a dark background. This helps radiologists determine which areas may be of concern.
Women with dense breasts can benefit from supplemental screening with one of Princeton Radiology’s Smart Breast MRIs.™ Smart Breast MRI™ can detect more than twice as many breast cancers as 3-D mammography alone – and at earlier, more treatable stages.
Types of Smart Breast MRI™ Exams
Princeton Radiology offers both Diagnostic and Smart Screen Breast MRIs.™ Most private insurance plans cover Diagnostic Smart Breast MRI for women at increased risk of developing breast cancer, such as those with a risk score of 20+ on their SmartMamm™ report, and/or an inherited conditions like BRCA 1/2 genetic mutations. If a Diagnostic Smart Breast MRI™ exam is not covered by your insurance, our Screening Smart Breast MRI™ is available for the low, self-pay fee of $375.
BESIDES DENSE BREAST TISSUE, ARE THERE OTHER REASONS TO CONSIDER A SMART BREAST MRI™?
Additional reasons to consider a Diagnostic Smart Breast MRI™ include:
- General concerns about breast health and risk factors not resolved with a mammogram
- Discovery of a lump/mass during a physical exam, ultrasound or mammogram
- Concerns about the integrity of breast implants
- Distinguishing between scar tissue and recurrent tumors
- Staging of breast cancer to make the best treatment decisions
Additional reasons to consider a Screening Smart Breast MRI™ include:
- Extra level of assurance, even after a normal mammogram
- If you had an average risk of breast cancer
- Additional safety net that catches 15 to 18 more breast cancers per 1,000 screenings
- Ability to reveal aggressive cancers, as it detects tumors that are vascular and can grow quickly in between annual mammograms
• Is radiation-free and painless
WHAT IF THE RESULTS ARE ABNORMAL?
A small percentage of breast MRIs require additional testing. These might include a follow-up diagnostic Smart Breast MRI™, breast ultrasound, diagnostic SmartMamm™ (mammogram), or biopsy.
DO I STILL NEED TO HAVE MAMMOGRAMS?
Yes! Even with dense breasts, mammograms are the only imaging exam proven to reduce breast cancer mortality. Mammograms also help detect changes in the pattern of your breast density, which is critical for detecting breast cancer early. We recommend that you continue with annual mammograms.