Problems Encountered During Mammography of Dense Breasts

Breast density describes the relative quantity of different tissues in breasts which is observed during a mammogram. The breast tissue is made up of connective (dense) tissue and fatty (non-dense) tissue. Dense breasts contain more of connective tissue and milk-producing tissue as compared to fatty tissue. However, low-density breasts have higher quantity of fat tissue. With an increase in the age of women, the breasts tend to decrease in density.

The mammogram of dense breasts usually poses difficulty in the interpretation of images that are created. Moreover, pre-menopausal women particularly the women who have never conceived are likely to have dense breast tissues. Besides this, dense breast tissue can also hide the outlines of the areas which need closer examination.

Generally, fat breast tissue appears in the form of dark areas and dense tissue appears as solid white areas on the mammogram film. Moreover, mammogram X-rays are unable to penetrate the dense tissue with the same intensity as they penetrate the fat tissue. In addition, cancerous tissues are also dense. Therefore, they appear in the form of solid white areas in the mammogram. Consequently, the detection of tumor is more difficult in dense breasts since dense tissue appears to surround it.

Although dense breasts can increase the difficulty of conventional mammograms, it does not imply that a conventional mammogram is ineffective for detection of cancer or any other breast abnormality. However, studies indicate that digital mammogram of dense breasts enhances the possibility of detecting cancer. A digital mammogram creates images on computer screen which could be magnified and improved for a closer view.

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