Breast Density Notification

As of October 1, 2013, Maryland state law requires that mammography providers include a special notice in the results letter sent to women who have undergone screening mammography. The notice includes general information about breast tissue density and a prompt to discuss this information with their health care provider.

To be in compliance with Maryland legislation, all patients who receive mammograms at the Eunice Q. Sorin Women’s Diagnostic Center will receive a letter that includes the following language:

This notice contains the results of your recent mammogram, including information about breast density and ends with paragraph, risk factors, or physical examination. A report of your results was sent to your physician. If your mammogram shows that your breast tissue is dense, you should know that dense breast tissue is a common finding and is not abnormal, with about half of women having dense or highly dense breasts. However, dense breast tissue can make it harder to find cancer on a mammogram and may also be associated with an increased risk of cancer. This information about the result of your mammogram is given to you to raise your awareness and to inform your conversations with your physician. Together, you can decide which screening options are right for you based on your mammogram results, individual risk factors, or physical examination. A report of your results was sent to your physician.

The breast is composed of glandular tissue and fatty tissue. Dense breasts are those that have a greater proportion of glandular tissue than fat. There are four levels of breast density; two of those levels, heterogeneously dense and extremely dense, are considered to be dense breasts. These breast density levels represent about 50% of women.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, knowing your breast density is important because women with dense breasts may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to women of the same age without dense tissue. Additionally, dense breast tissue makes it harder for breast cancer to be seen because breast cancer and normal glandular tissue both appear white on mammograms.

Digital mammography, the type offered at our Women’s Diagnostic Center, improves cancer detection, compared with analog mammography, particularly in women who have dense breasts. High-quality screening mammograms with digital mammography and regular clinical breast exams are the most effective ways to detect breast cancer early.

The need for additional screening with MRI and/or Ultrasound in women with dense breasts is still up for debate. Women with dense breasts who are concerned about their breast cancer risks should discuss the possibilities of additional screening tests with their physician.

There are many ways women in general, and particularly those with dense breasts, may reduce their risk for breast cancer:

• Obtain annual screening mammograms as recommended by the American College of Radiology, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology & American Cancer Society.
• Obtain regular clinical breast exams by a health care provider.
• Do monthly self breast exams.
• Make healthy lifestyle choices.

For more information, or questions about breast density and the new state law, please contact the Eunice Q. Sorin Women’s Diagnostic Center, at 410-641-9215, or your women’s health provider.