The Smart Choice!
DEER ISLE, Maine -- Every woman has different breasts; no two are ever the same. The makeup of breast tissue can be either dense or not. Dense breast tissue doesn't relate to breast size or firmness, but is important when it comes to mammograms.
"For some reason, I was very drawn to tell my story so it wouldn't happen to other women," said cancer survivor, Nancy Greene.
Women with dense breast tissue can sometimes have tumors that are very hard to detect with routine mammograms.
Nancy was at-risk for breast cancer because her mother was diagnosed earlier. Each year, her mammogram came back looking normal.
"And one day, I noticed a huge something on my right breast, and the truth is, I ignored it for a month or two because I thought 'Oh that couldn't be breast cancer because my mammograms were always normal."
She later found out she had tumors growing in her breast. Nancy's tissue in her breast made it hard for doctors to see her cancer on mammograms. On the x-ray, dense breast tissue looks white and tumors also look white. Less dense tissue looks black and something white -- like a tumor can be easily be spotted on the mammogram. Nancy doesn't want another woman to slip through the cracks.
"If I had been told that my breast are dense and what it means, since my mother had breast cancer, I would have been given an MRI right away and it would have shown what I have," said Greene.
Instead Nancy needed chemo, and for the next five years she has to take an estrogen suppressor.
Greene said it's important that you ask questions about your mammogram. She doesn't want the lives of others to be ruined or compromised by breast cancer. Most hospitals in Maine are voluntarily providing information about the risks of dense breast tissue;if they don't, physicians say you can request to know if you have dense breast tissue or to see your mammogram.
BANGOR, Maine -- For years, mammograms have been showing physicians whether or not their patient has dense breast tissue.
Now many providers are sharing this information with their patients, so they are informed about how dense their breast tissue is.
Dense breast tissue is very common. Doctors said about 50 percent of women have dense breast tissue, which poses some problems for diagnosing breast cancer.
When a radiologist looks at a mammogram from a dense breast patient, the tissue appears white on the x-ray, which is the same color of tumors.
Older women tend to have fattier breast tissue, which is more translucent on a mammogram and therefore is easier to spot abnormalities. EMMC radiologist Amy Harrow said fatty tissue has a black background, so a white tumor would stand out.
"Small masses of cancer can appear white, so in a white background it would be harder, more challenging, to find a white appearing small tumor. The fattier your breast is the blacker the background, therefore, a white small tumor would stand out more," said Harrow.
Breast Surgeon Dr. Kimberly Liber said having dense breast tissue is linked to an increased risk of getting breast cancer, but it's not the main risk factor. Liber explains it's important to look at genetics, family history, prior breast history and age.
In breasts that are severely dense, doctors said an MRI, ultrasound or 3D breast mammogram can be used to help detect breast cancer.
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