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Dense breast tissue and what it means

Dense breast tissue is a measure of how much breast tissue is on your mammogram versus fat. When a radiologist is reading a mammogram, fat is actually gray in color while tissue and cancer shows up as white.

“When you have more white, dense breast tissue on your mammogram, it becomes more difficult to find a white breast cancer hiding in your white breast tissue,” said Dr. Kristie Guite, a Marshfield Clinic Health System breast imaging radiologist.

A Wisconsin law requiring doctors to notify women they have dense breast tissue on their mammogram went into effect April 4, 2018. Doctors should send the notice to patients with their exam results via a letter sent in the mail.

Next steps for women with dense breast tissue

Dense breast tissue is found in more than 40 percent of women older than 40. Women with it also have an increased risk for developing breast cancer than other women.

If a radiologist detects it on your mammogram, you should discuss this with your doctor. They can help you determine whether you should undergo additional screening such as 3D mammography, molecular breast imaging or possibly an MRI.

For women, doctors recommend a yearly mammogram starting at age 40. Women in their 40s and 50s are also more likely to have dense breast tissue on a mammogram, but it can decrease as women age.

Breast density is not determined by how the breast looks or feels and is only determined on a mammogram.

Watch this video for more information or talk to your doctor.

For questions about mammograms, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

Schedule appointment Message your provider

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4 responses to “Dense breast tissue and what it means”

  1. Judy

    I believe Diagnostic and Treatment Center at St. Clares in Weston has SmartCurve?

  2. Linda Berres

    I checked Marshfield Clinic to see about the Hologic’s SmartCurve system and it is not listed as having it. Will the clinic be getting this to make mammos more comfortable? I have dense breasts and it is recommended. Thank you!

    1. Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor

      Hi, Linda. We do have the Hologic SmartCurve system on our mammography machines at Marshfield Medical Center-Rice Lake and one system at Marshfield Medical Center-Marshfield. Patients can certainly request the SmartCurve system at those locations.

      I am not sure whether we plan to bring Hologic SmartCurve to more locations. I will certainly let you know if I get further information on those plans.

      Thank you for reading Shine365. -Kirstie

      1. Linda Berres

        Thank you for your reply! When I went to the Hologic website and put in the zip code for Marshfield and it didn’t come up I was surprised. Glad to hear you have it!

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