Dense breasts may need more screening

United Press International

Women with dense or non-fatty breast tissue may need additional breast cancer screening, a U.S. researcher says.

Dr. Roshni Rao, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said one woman’s personal battle with breast cancer was the inspiration for Henda’s Law — a Texas law named for Henda Salmeron that requires women to be informed about their breast tissue’s density and the limitations of mammography in certain cases.

Rao, Salmeron’s breast surgeon, said radiologists use a grading system to describe the density of breast tissue based on the amount of fat (non-dense) and connective (dense) tissue. Research is under way into why some women have denser breast tissue, but as women age, their breast tissue generally becomes more fatty, Rao said.

“Breast tissue that has minimal or no fat may appear white, or dense, on a mammogram. This sometimes makes it difficult to identify cancers, which also typically appear as small white spots,” Rao said in a statement. “Many factors contribute to a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Having dense breast tissue may be one of them, but your doctor considers other factors — age at which a women had her first child, family history of cancer or age at the onset of menstruation, among others — when evaluating your risk and tailoring your screening program.”

Digital mammograms may be best at finding cancer for women with dense breast tissue. Other tests, including breast magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound and breast thermography, may be helpful, but only in addition to mammograms, Rao said.

Copyright United Press International 2011

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