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St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center

St. Joseph's Health Connections

Oct 3 2013
New York State Breast Density Law and Your Breast Health

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; did you know that New York State now mandates that centers that perform mammography must inform the patients about their breast density?  Breast density on mammography refers to the amount of dense tissue (fibroglandular and stromal tissue) compared to fatty tissue.  Many factors can affect breast density including age, hormones, change in weight and medications, amongst others. 

Dense tissue is very common, approximately 50 percent of women have dense breast tissue, and by itself is not abnormal.  Dense breast tissue can however make it harder to detect cancer on a mammogram.  Increased breast density is also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.  Some studies report a four to six times increased risk of breast cancer in women with extremely dense breasts. 

The American College of Radiology uses a four category reporting system.  These include almost entirely fat (less than 25% dense tissue), scattered fibroglandular densities (25 - 50% dense tissue), heterogeneously dense (51- 75% dense tissue) and extremely dense (greater than 75% dense tissue).  Women who have either heterogeneously dense or extremely dense breast tissue should talk to their healthcare providers about their risk status for breast cancer and to see if additional screening tests for breast cancer might be helpful.   

One in eight, or 12.5 percent, of women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.  Low risk is less than a 15 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer.  Moderate risk is a 15 to 20 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer.  High risk would include a greater than 20 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer.  Women at high risk of breast cancer in addition to a greater than 20% lifetime risk of breast cancer, would also include women who have the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes or their mothers, daughters and sisters, certain genetic syndromes and women who had radiation therapy to their chest between the ages of 10 and 30 years.  The American Cancer Society now considers women with extremely dense breasts alone as a moderate risk for breast cancer. 

Others screening tests for breast cancer could include MR (magnetic resonance) imaging, ultrasound imaging, nuclear medine Gammagram (BSGI) and Tomosyntheseis (3D imaging).  Most commonly additional screening test for breast cancer include ultrasound imaging and MR (magnetic resonance) imaging.  Both of these imaging modalities use no radiation.  While the Gammagram and Tomosynthesis (3D imaging) can also be used the Gammagram uses 10 times the amount of radiation compared to screening mammography and Tomosynthesis uses 2-4 times the amount of radiation compared to screening mammography. 

At St. Joseph’s we offer the latest and safest breast imaging modalities for your breast health needs.  All of our radiologists are Board Certified and Certified by the Federal Government and New York State.


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The information provided on this site should not be taken as medical advice. As always, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician if you have any medical concerns.