Do You Have Dense Breast Tissue?

Once again I had one of those phone calls that takes my breath away and takes the wind out of my sails.  A friend was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer this week and the reason it was found so late is due to DENSE BREAST TISSUE.  She had a mammogram a year ago, and was told it was fine.  In October of 2017 she said she felt something was wrong in her breast.  She went to her Primary Care Physician who prescribed some antibiotics for a breast infection.  In December, my friend still felt something was drastically wrong.  Finally, they did the mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy and discovered the breast cancer.  Her tumor was already 5 cm and had infiltrated to a large number of lymph nodes.  She is starting chemo this week.

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows I am constantly preaching about DENSE BREAST TISSUE.  Over 40% of women have Dense Breast Tissue (NOT just young women – women well into their 70s and 80s can have it). If you have Dense Breast Tissue, you can be Stage 4 before you know anything is even going on as often tumors are not picked up on mammograms. Dense breast tissue appears white on mammograms and so do tumors. I’ve heard from COUNTLESS women about this fact many have gotten their yearly mammograms and got the all clear right up until diagnosis.

When my sister was diagnosed Stage 3C Breast Cancer 3 years ago, she had dense breast tissue, didn’t realize it and was told only once by our family doctor back when she was having children in her 20s and 30s. She really did not know what that could mean for her and was never told. On her regular mammogram, which was a 3D technology/tomosynthesis mammogram which is supposed to be better at detecting tumors in dense breast tissue, an area of compressed tissue showed. That’s all. THANK GOD our local hospital biopsied, not because they thought it was cancer, but based on family history of my diagnosis and my mom’s diagnosis, they wanted to make sure nothing was hiding behind that area.  Because Diann was so paranoid because of my diagnosis and mom’s diagnosis, she gave herself a breast exam every 2 weeks.  She never felt a thing even though her tumor was 3 cm at diagnosis.

dense-breast_orig

Now with my friend’s diagnosis, this makes me MORE DETERMINED to get the word out there about dense breast tissue. It is not something easy to talk about it.  But the discussion is necessary.
This from breastcancer.org about dense breast tissue:
Dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more non-fatty tissue compared to breasts that aren’t dense. One way to measure breast density is the thickness of tissue on a mammogram. Another categorizes breast patterns into four types depending on which type of tissue makes up most of the breast. Still, no one method of measuring breast density has been agreed upon by doctors. Breast density is not based on how your breasts feel during your self-exam or your doctor’s physical exam. Dense breasts have more gland tissue that makes and drains milk and supportive tissue (also called stroma) that surrounds the gland. Breast density can be inherited, so if your mother has dense breasts, it’s likely you will, too.
Research has shown that dense breasts:
can be 6 times more likely to develop cancer
can make it harder for mammograms to detect breast cancer; breast cancers (which look white like breast gland tissue) are easier to see on a mammogram when they’re surrounded by fatty tissue (which looks dark).

DenseBreast
Over half of US States have laws that say women who have dense breast tissue must be notified. Obviously, this doesn’t always happen.
So what to do?
1) Ask the question of every health care provider you have if you have dense breast tissue.
2) If you have dense breast tissue, even if your mammogram comes back okay, INSIST, INSIST, INSIST on an ultrasound. Call your insurance company. Tell them you have dense breast tissue. In most cases it covers. If it doesn’t, ask to talk to a Supervisor. If you can’t get them to pay, do it anyway. Make payments. Your life is worth it.
3) If anything is questionable on the ultrasound, INSIST, INSIST, INSIST on further testing. What is further testing?
A breast MRI or the newest technology – Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI). I  wrote about this technology in February, 2015 as recent studies have shown it quadruples detection of breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue!!

https://denise4health.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/molecular-breast-imaging-mbi-quadruples-detection-of-breast-cancer-in-women-with-dense-breast-tissue/
PLEASE, I beg you, have this conversation with your doctors, with your mammogram provider, and with your friends.  Your life depends upon it.

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10 comments

    • Oh my, 8 cm tumor and only micro-metastasis in the nodes. Now that is miraculous!
      You get the prize for the largest tumor least amount of nodes award from me!
      Thank you for sharing this post. We have to keep getting the word out there.
      I am SO SORRY that you found yourself in this position as well. ALL MY BEST!

  1. Another great post Denise- I’m sending it out to girlfriends! Yes- I was in the dense breast club and yes….ended up with BC!

  2. Actually about 90% of women, especially women younger than 60, have dense breast tissue; yes 90% according to several OB/GYN’s I personally know & consult as a physician. Dense breast tissue is the radiologist’s way of wiggling out of misreading a mammogram, ordering more tests such as MRI ( which may be useless) & ultrasound – all of which add to more biopsies, higher medical costs & not necessarily earlier diagnosis. If you feel a lump or an itchy area ( in my case), get it biopsied. Do not accept no as an answer; do not accept waiting 2-3 weeks for a biopsy.. You know your body & what’s new & abnormal. Density is just a way for radiologists to try to escape a medical malpractice case down the line.

    • Thanks so much for your info – much appreciated and good advice about lump or itchy area.
      I would add pain as I had a lot of pain in the area where my tumor was. Appreciate your post
      very much!

  3. Thanks for the post. I also wish I had known about this sooner. I had an “all clear”mammogram in Dec 2016 and less than a year later had a diagnosis of Stage 2b triple positive BC ( all nodes clear) with tumor 10 cm in size! How could that have been missed the year before? I now INSIST on an ultrasound along with the mammo on my remaining breast. It is so sad that this information about dense breast tissue is known, but not being shared like it should. Thanks for raising awareness.

    • OHMYGOSH – I just told another gal on her that she gets my prize for largest tumor (8cm) with one micromet node.
      Now I have to take that away from her and give it to you! I AM SO SORRY that you had a 10 cm tumor one year later.
      Obviously, it was not clear the year before as you were told! I’ve had women tell me they had the all clear and then
      felt the lump! So glad you INSIST on an ultrasound on your remaining breast! We shall keep spreading the news!
      All my best to you!!!

  4. Thank You Denise for ALWAYS keeping us informed !!!!!!!!! Appreciate all that you do for All of us ladies with your Blog also…. an Very useful information you give to each of use. YOU are Appreciated my friend 🙂

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