Breast density is recognized as one of, and possibly the strongest risk factor associated with development of breast cancer, according to the National Institute of Health. Dense breast tissue made up of more connective tissue and it appears white on a mammogram.
Cancer also appears white on a mammogram. Cancer is often hidden by the connective tissue in women with dense breasts. I was told by my radiologist that it is like trying to find a polar bear in a snowstorm. There are countless stories of women who received a clear mammogram only to find out later they actually had advanced breast cancer.
Below are three very important questions you need to ask.
Does your state have a breast density reporting law? There is no national standard to disclose breast density to women. Withholding this information denies women with dense breasts the ability to make an informed decision about their health and more concerning is it denies them the chance of possibly detecting breast cancer early. Check here it see what the law is in your state: http://www.areyoudenseadvocacy.org/dense/
Do you have dense breast? The radiologist at the screening center should tell you. If they don’t tell you the day you get your mammogram then you need to follow up with your referring doctor. Do not just assume you don’t need to know. Do not assume they will tell you if you do. You will need to do the follow up work to get the answer. Ask to see the actual mammography report.
Will your insurance cover additional screening, ultrasound or MRI? Only four states have insurance coverage laws. So chances are even if you are told you have dense breasts your insurance company is not likely to cover additional screenings. This is absurd and needs to change. Full breast ultrasound costs $360 on average nationally and the radiologist may still charge an additional fee to interpret the images.
All this makes me wonder, how many women are out there that do not know they have dense breasts? How many more received a mammogram declaring them cancer free? Even the women who were informed that they had dense breast tissue did they pay the additional fee for additional screening? And can they even afford it?
Please remember to discuss all your risk factors with your doctor in addition to your breast density so that you can make the best decisions and advocate for your best health options.