Breasts are composed of glandular (milk glands and ducts), connective (fibrous tissue) and fat tissues. Breast density is calculated by comparing the amount of breast tissue in comparison to fat in the breast. Generally, dense breasts are composed of higher amounts of glandular and connective tissues and lower amounts of fatty breast tissue.
Physical examination or observation (size, shape, firmness, BMI or weight) cannot tell you about breast density and the only way to measure it is by using a mammogram. Age is a determining factor in breast density-younger we are, denser our breast is. As we grow old density decreases owing to declining estrogen levels which happens due to aging, all the more due to menopause.
It’s also common to see individuals having dense breasts later in their adulthood too (almost 40% women above the age of 40 have dense breasts). It might be due to your genetic predisposition! There are two reasons to be concerned about if you have a dense breast:
Having dense breasts is nothing to be afraid of nor is it uncommon. It doesn’t guarantee a breast cancer in the future but only increases the risk of a cancer possibility. Important risk factors for a dense breast include age, medication, low BMI and genetics.
Younger women have denser breast. Older a woman grows, less-denser her breasts become, and it might be due to medications such as hormone replacement therapy after menopause that increase breast density or the work of other medications as well. Genetics too plays a role here and women with dense breasts usually have a mom or grandma with a dense breast.
The BI-RADS (Breast Imaging Reporting & Database Systems) assess breast density and classifies it into four groups:
Staying Healthy with Dense Breasts
Getting a dense breast is not in our hands but all we can do is engage in activities that reduce our risk for breast cancer. Common lifestyle changes that can be implemented include:
It is better to compare results with the previous year’s results to better understand your risk. Women with a family history of breast cancer or dense breasts must talk to their physician and arrange for specialized programs that meets the requirements.
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