It is always inspiring to see people wearing pink ribbons during public events. Whether it is a 5K race, a youth sporting events, or a local fundraiser, it is uplifting to see the push for awareness. Just about everybody knows what a pink ribbon represents, reflecting on just how far organizations like Pink Ribbons Memphis have come in promoting breast cancer awareness. Because of public safety messages and ongoing breast cancer awareness events and education, most of us already know the certain genetic factors that can predict our breast cancer risk.
Having this knowledge is powerful. But while it is great that science and research continue, we realize we are only at the tip of the iceberg in knowledge at predicting who is at risk. We have a lot of work ahead of us. There are other factors to consider, such as breast density. While many of us know that certain genetic factors can predict risk, there is also new research that suggests breast density is an increasingly important predictor of a woman’s breast cancer risk.
What is breast density?
- Breast density is a measure used to describe mammogram images. It is not a measure of how the breasts feel.
- Breasts are made up of fat and breast tissue (the milk ducts and lobules, which may be called glandular tissue). Connective tissue helps hold everything place.
- Breast density compares the area of breast and connective tissue seen on a mammogram to the area of fat. Breast and connective tissue are denser than fat and this difference shows up on a mammogram
- High breast density means there’s a greater amount of breast and connective tissue compared to fat.
- Low breast density means there’s a greater amount of fat compared to breast and connective tissue.
- By looking at your mammogram or the measure of breast density, your health care provider may conclude that you have dense breasts.
Here is how a dense breast vs. a fatty breast looks on a mammogram: (Left) Dense Breast (Right) Fatty Breasts.
Typically mammograms of dense breasts are harder to read than mammograms of fatty breasts.
What you need to know
Breast density and breast cancer risk:
Women with high breast density are 4-5 times more likely to get breast cancer than women with low breast density.
Why is important in cancer research?
While dense breasts increase the risk of breast cancer, it is not clear if reducing breast density will decrease the actual risk of breast cancer. For example, getting older and gaining weight after menopause is related to lower breast density. However, the same factors are related to an increase in breast cancer risk.
What to do: At his time, there are no special recommendations or screening guidelines for women with dense breasts. If you are due for a mammogram, schedule an appointment. Talk to your doctor during next scheduled mammogram. Bring up the issue of breast density as a concern. Your doctor will ask you about your family history, review previous mammograms, and compare the new mammogram, providing the information you need.
Pink Ribbons Memphis offers products and services that are designed to help you through your healing process. One of our popular products is the compression pump, a device created to help with the treatment of lymphedema, a condition that can occur after any surgery. To learn more information about compression pumps and other services we offer, visit our website www.pinkribbonsmemphis.com or give us a call today at (901)-417-6060.