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Are You Dense?

Are you dense?

This October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Gunnison Valley Health encourages you to ask yourself, “am I dense?” Don’t worry, we’re not referring to your intellectual capabilities. Rather, the question is about dense breast tissue.

So, why care about the denseness of breast tissue?

Dense breast tissue is comprised of less fat and more connective tissue which appears white on a mammogram. The problem is that cancer also appears white on mammograms and thus tumors can often be hidden or masked by the dense tissue.

As a woman ages, her breasts usually become more fatty. However, around 2/3 of pre-menopausal and 1/4 of post-menopausal women have dense breast tissue. Additionally, dense breasts are more commonly associated with women who have a normal body weight. A higher proportion of women in our community are younger and healthier than the national average and younger, healthier women have an increased likelihood of dense breast tissue.

According to DenseBreast-info.org:

  • On average, 40% of women have dense breasts
  • Breast cancer is 4-6 times more likely in women with dense breasts
  • In dense breasts, mammograms can miss more than 50% of the cancers present

So how do you become more informed about your own breast density? First, if you are 40 years of age, it is recommended by the American College of Gynecologists to start regular digital mammograms. If you have a family history of breast cancer, this screening may need to start sooner, and this is a conversation you should have with your health care provider. If you have already had mammograms, talk with your provider as radiologists have been reporting a woman's dense breast tissue information to her referring doctor. Additionally, Gunnison Valley Health is working to include information regarding breast density in the mammogram report that patients receive.

Gunnison Valley Health, in conjunction with Tough Enough to Wear Pink, encourages members of the community to know about their risk factors for breast cancer so they can make informed decisions on their breast screening and supplemental screening options.

This October, schedule a mammogram by calling 970-641-7253.