There has been a lot of National media buzz lately about the recent FDA updates on performing mammography and the requirement of reporting the density of breasts to patients. Many questions have been raised by patients who may not understand why the breast density report is important. The updated national requirements all come down to making early cancer detection easier.
According to the FDA, approximately half of women in the U.S. over the age of 40 have dense breast tissue (as described on a mammogram.) The denser tissue can make it more difficult to detect cancer in a mammogram and has also been identified as a risk factor for developing breast cancer.*
Breast density is determined by a mammogram or a Breast MRI. It is not based on how the breasts appear or feel. It can change over time due to many factors including age and genetics. Having dense breast tissue is common and is not a cause for concern but knowing your individual breast density is important for managing your own breast health.
Breast composition is classified into four different categories—a, b, c, or d.
- a – almost all fatty tissue
- b – mostly fatty tissue with scattered dense tissue
- c – mixed fatty and dense (heterogeneous) tissue
- d – extremely dense tissue
“I think it is important to note that NY State has had these regulations in place since 2013. At Southtowns Radiology Women’s Care, we have partnered with Volpara Health since 2014 to effectively measure breast density for all mammography patients,” says Dr. Asha Ziembiec, Medical Director.” It is recommended that patients with dense breasts have a breast ultrasound IN ADDITION to their mammogram in order to aid in the detection of breast cancer. At Southtowns Radiology, we routinely schedule patients with dense breasts for both a mammogram AND an Ultrasound.”
Dr. Ziembiec continues: “We also use VOLPARA Patient Hub software to provide a personalized Tyler-Cuzick Score for the patient’s 10-Year and Lifetime Risk for developing breast cancer. This information will help the patient and provider best plan for future imaging to detect breast cancer. “
As additional information regarding breast imaging continues, it is still important to know that early detection remains as the driving factor in improved breast cancer outcomes. Monitoring breast health is a way for women to continue to be in charge of their health. The current standard of care for women is to get a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35-39 and then annually starting at age 40. We know breast imaging can cause feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Whether it’s an annual screening appointment or follow up imaging to further evaluate an area of concern, we are focused on offering you the best experience possible.
If you have questions, talk to your physician and ask any questions you may have and ask them for a recommendation on where to go for imaging. For more information on breast imaging options available locally, call us at (716) 649-9000 today.
* ‘FDA Updates Mammography Regulations to Require Reporting of Breast Density Information and Enhance Facility Oversight’, fda.gov, March 9, 2023
Author: Diana Iglewski, RT, Director of Clinical Care and Women’s Imaging at Southtowns Radiology