It’s that time of the year again where you see pink ribbons cropping up everywhere, on blouses, shirts and even on cars. When you see that you know it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have not scheduled your mammogram yet, you should do that now. By the way, doctors recommend that women begin having mammograms at age 40 and continue up to age 75. Opinions are mixed as to the frequency of testing for older women, so if you are over 70 you should consult with your doctor.
The first time a friend told me she had dense breasts, I immediately thought it was another way of saying she had large breasts. However, she went on to tell me that because her mammogram showed she had dense breasts, it was difficult to detect whether she had cancerous lumps or not. I was concerned. What if she had cancer and it could not be detected? Fortunately, further screening revealed no sign of cancer.
So, what are dense breasts? According to the Mayo Clinic, “dense breast tissue appears as a solid white area on a mammogram,” which resembles cancerous tissue, making it more difficult to detect. All women have dense breast tissue, but if your mammogram shows you have dense breasts, it means you have more dense breast tissue than fatty tissue. Women with non-dense breasts, on the other hand, have more fatty tissue than dense tissue. The Mayo Clinic report says that half of women undergoing mammograms have dense breasts.
My friend who was told she had dense breasts is also large-breasted, but dense breasts are not necessarily large. In fact, large breasts contain more fatty tissue or are less dense than smaller breasts. Also, the younger you are and the less you weigh, the greater your chances of having dense breasts. This is one occasion where your heavier sisters may be better off. However, regardless of size and density of your breasts, exercise can help shed chest fat and strengthen the muscles to reduce their size. Women who use hormone replacement therapy are also likely to have dense breasts.
Breast cancer is something we all want to avoid, this is why the National Breast Cancer Foundation carries out this annual campaign to remind us to take the necessary steps to help us avoid falling prey to this dreaded disease. Large breasts are not necessarily dense breasts. Women with less body mass are more likely to have dense breasts, which make it harder to detect cancer. If cancer runs in your family, you are even at a greater risk. Schedule your annual check-up now if you haven’t done so already.