Q:

What does "heterogeneously dense breast tissue" mean?

A:

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During a mammogram, a medical technician may discover that a patient has heterogeneously dense breasts. This medical term refers to extremely dense glandular tissue in the breast area. Dr. Margaret Polaneczky explains that, under this classification, the breast composition measures between 51 - 75 percent glandular. Large amounts of breast tissue compromise a mammogram test, and make it difficult to detect cancer, according to breast cancer expert, Dr. Stacey Vitiello.

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What does "heterogeneously dense breast tissue" mean?
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Breast density, according to Dr. Vitiello, is a leading reason why mammography screenings fail to detect cancer in young and older women. She states that "up to half of breast cancers cannot be seen on the mammogram in women with dense breasts."

Unfortunately, women with heterogeneously dense breasts run the risk of having their breast cancer missed during the early stages of development. When the cancer is detected, it is often in the latter stages and requires invasive treatments with poorer prognosis for survival. Some organizations are taking it upon themselves to inform women about dense breasts risks so that they can get proper diagnosis and treatment before its too late.

As of 2014, New York, California, Virginia and Texas have breast density notification laws that require women to be informed about their breast density levels after a mammogram procedure. Grass roots organizations believe that knowing this information empowers women to seek additional screening tests for breast cancer. Dr. Vitiello recommends that all women request a copy of their mammogram report, or contact a radiologist to obtain vital breast density information.

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