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Breast Cancer Screening with ABUS for Women with Dense Breasts

Mammograms have saved countless lives, but they can have their limitations, especially for women with dense breasts. 

What does the term “dense breasts” mean?

Breasts are composed of a variable percentage of fatty and glandular tissue (milk ducts and glands). When a woman has dense breasts, the percentage of glandular tissue is higher than the percentage of fatty tissue. Having dense breasts increases the risk of breast cancer by four to five times.

Does having dense breasts make it more difficult to detect breast cancer?

Yes. Dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram, and so does cancerous tissue, so tumors are harder to see and can be missed.

How do women know if they have dense breast tissue?

The State of Virginia has passed a law that requires mammography facilities to disclose information about breast density in both the written report of the results sent to the doctor and the summary of that written report given to the patient. This is done to help women to be better informed about whether supplemental screening should be considered or not.

What is the optimal type of cancer screening for women with dense breasts?

There is no one test that fits all. Breast density, along with other risk factors, should determine the choice for further testing with ultrasound or MRI. At Virginia Hospital Center we offer our patients all kinds of different supplemental testing, including 3D mammographyAutomated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS) and MRI.

What is ABUS?

ABUS is new ultrasound technology which obtains 3D volume imaging of the breasts. It allows radiologists to look through hundreds of breast tissue image “slices,” looking at layers of dense tissue to find breast cancers which may have been missed on a mammogram.

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