Dense Breast Tissue and Mammograms

Do you know what kind of breast tissue you have?

Until two days ago I had not idea the kind of breast tissue that I have. Until two days ago I didn’t know that women can have fatty breast tissue or dense breast tissue.

As you may or may not know, I turned 40 this year. You also may or may not know that I had a hysterectomy last year. After the hysterectomy, I had a check up with my OB/GYN and he reminded me that because I was turning 40 I should start having my yearly mammogram. So late this summer, I went ahead and schedule my first mammogram.

Woman in pink with a breast cancer ribbon.
Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash

One of the most frustrating parts of this experience is that the process lacks an “educational” component that would allow me to truly learn about the health of my breast, the mammogram process, and health screening for breast cancer. So this is what happened:

  • I visited the doctor’s office and had my first mammogram. The experience simply involved having the 3D scan of my breast with the mammogram machine (I am sure there is a proper name for the machine).
  • I got a call from the doctor‘s office 5 days later letting me know I needed to schedule a follow up mammogram at the hospital in the breast cancer center (scary!).
  • I when to the follow up mammogram. I met the technician who told me that she would have to take additional 3D imagines for both of my breast. I had to ask why. Her response: “the doctor’s office notice something in both of your breast”.
  • After the follow up mammogram, I was put in a waiting area and told that it is possible I would have to have an ultrasound of my breast.
  • After a few minutes an ultrasound technician took me to a room where she quietly performed the ultrasound of both of my breast. After completing the ultrasound she told me to wait there while she shared the imagines with the radiologist.
  • After what seemed like forever, she returned and told me that what they were seen in my breast scans and ultrasound images were lymph nodes in one breast and “dense breast tissue” on the other. She simple said: “ But are fine. The radiologist didn’t fine anything abnormal.”

Perhaps for the technicians, radiologist, and other health care personal assume that all of the language that they used was familiar to me or I understood all the consequences of what was happening. But I actually ended up doing a lot of googling throughout the process, the terms, and the research. I came across all sorts of different resources. One major finding amongst the sources I read and listened to is that women with “dense breast tissue” are more likely to have undiagnosed breast cancer: https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/dense_breasts

Two takeaways from this experience that I hope help others that read this post:

  • I felt that there was a lack education during the process. I wish someone has sat with me an explain the process, the terms, and potential outcome in more detail. I will be talking to my OB/GYN in more detail about this. But, it also means you have to do your own research too. So, seek education from a professional but also spend time looking a reputable sources to better understand women’s health.
  • If you are 40 years and older get a mammogram every year. If several mammograms are inconclusive, request an ultrasounds of your breast. I found the TEDx Talk below to very helpful (I know not all TEDx Talks are helpful, but this one truly aligned with research from reputable sources).

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