Understanding Breast Density

Understanding Breast Density
Midlife wellness includes breast health awareness, meaning it’s time to start scheduling annual mammograms – if you haven’t already. Not only can mammograms help detect breast cancer, but can determine whether you have dense breasts. For women with dense breast, an annual mammogram may not be enough. 

Breasts are comprised of fibrous, glandular and fatty tissue. When you have dense breasts, there’s an increased amount of fibrous or glandular tissue, but not much fat. While density may decrease with age, there is little, if any, change of density in most women. 

Determining Breast Density
Your mammogram helps radiologists determine if you have dense breasts and classify your breast density based on a 4-level scale:

As of June, Michigan law requires your mammogram provider to tell you if you have dense breasts. Our physicians will work closely with you to determine the right screening schedule for optimum breast health.

Dense breasts make it difficult to detect breast cancer on a conventional mammogram. In conjunction with your annual mammogram, your doctor may suggest an additional screening called tomosynthesis (3D mammography). It’s a complementary screening that allows doctors to see your breast tissue in greater detail – detecting breast cancer at its earliest stages, when it’s the most treatable. 

The Next Step
If you are a part of the 10 percent of women classified with extremely dense breasts, you may be at a greater risk for developing breast cancer. Even if your breasts aren’t dense, you may have other risk factors for developing breast cancer. As a provider at Holland Hospital’s High Risk Clinic, we can help determine other risk factors, including:
• Strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer
• Extremely dense breast tissue on mammography
• Atypical cells found on a benign breast biopsy

Understanding breast health becomes increasingly important for women midlife. If you’d like more information about Holland Hospital’s High Risk Clinic, or to learn more about your risks, visit our webpage or call to schedule an appointment at (616) 355-3815. To learn more about Michigan’s breast density law, click here.

Your partner in midlife wellness,
Dr. Laurie Back  
  • Laurie Birkholz, MD

    Laurie Birkholz, MD

    When Laurie Birkholz, MD, isn’t providing women’s health care at Lakeshore Health Partners, she enjoys the hiking trails and beaches in our community with husband, Eric, and their two daughters. Dr. Birkholz has a special interest in holistic health – focusing on all aspects of health-mind, body and spirit and their roles in continuing good health or returning to previous levels of health. From sexual health and cancer survivorship to nutrition and fitness counseling, Dr. Laurie helps women of all ages make their life a great life!

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