Dense Breasts

do-i-have-dense-breasts-los-angeles-treatmentOne in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. Although anyone can develop breast cancer, certain factors and characteristics enhance a women’s risk. Along with a family history of breast cancer, having dense or cystic breast tissue raises a woman’s chances of developing the disease.

To ensure early detection, women with dense breast tissue should be especially vigilant about performing self-exams and visiting their doctors. If you think you may be at risk for breast cancer, don’t hesitate to contact La Peer’s Breast Surgery Center of Excellence at (888) 316-4167 for an expert consultation.

Do I Have Cystic or Dense Breast Tissue?

Breast density reflects the percentages of different tissue types making up the breast. Breasts with more fibrous and glandular (milk-producing) tissue and less fatty tissue are said to be dense. Women whose breast tissue feels lumpy or rope-like are said to have fibrocystic breasts. Breasts that are fibrocystic may feel tender or painful to the touch.

Although having dense or fibrocystic breasts does not mean you have breast cancer, these conditions can make it more difficult to diagnose cancer using a mammogram.  Our breast surgeons advise women with dense breasts to undergo regular clinical breast exams and speak to their doctors about digital mammography and MRI, which may be more effective means of diagnosing cancer. In some cases, additional testing may be necessary to rule out breast cancer.

Breast Tissue Biopsy

In some cases, a biopsy (removal of cells and tissue) may be required to rule out cancer. Doctors utilize different procedures to biopsy breast tissue, depending on the size and location of the lump, including:

  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy. During this method, the surgeon utilizes a thin needle attached to a syringe to remove suspicious tissue. If the lump is not easily visualized, the doctor may use ultrasound imaging during the procedure.
  • Core needle biopsy. Like fine needle aspiration biopsy, core needle biopsy involves the use of a small needle to remove a sample of tissue. However, the doctor usually inserts the needle multiple times during this procedure. By taking more samples, the surgeon can minimize the chance of missing cancerous cells.
  • Surgical biopsy. This procedure involves the removal of all or part of the lump while the patient is under anesthesia.

FAQ on Dense Breasts

Q: If I have dense breasts, do I still need to get mammograms?

A: Yes! A mammogram is still an important means of detecting breast cancer in its early stages. People with dense breasts may require digital mammography or MRI as well. Talk to your doctor to find out what screening techniques he or she recommends.

Q: What is the relationship between dense breast tissue and cancer?

A: Women with dense breasts are not necessarily more prone to cancer. However, dense breasts can make cancer detection more difficult.

Q: Are biopsies painful?

A: Depending on the type of biopsy being performed, the doctor will give you numbing medication or put you under anesthesia. You should not experience much pain during the procedure, though soreness and bruising are common after a biopsy. The doctor will likely give you an ice pack to apply to your breast and advise you to take pain-relieving medication for a few days.

Q: When will I receive my results?

A: In most cases, patients receive the results of their biopsies 1 to 2 days after undergoing the procedure.

Contact Our Breast Surgery Experts

At the Breast Surgery Center of Excellence, we strive to provide healthy breast care along with reconstructive options for cancer survivors. If you think you may be at risk of breast cancer, or if you want to learn more about your options after a diagnosis, feel free to schedule a consultation.

Next, read about breast cancer treatment options.

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