Tuesday, August 23, 2016

For Dense Breasts, Annual Mammograms

Women with dense breasts should get yearly mammograms, says science.
Currently, most women get mammograms every 2 years.
A new study just published in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine says that women who've been told they have "dense" breasts coupled with a history of tumors or other risk factors for breast cancer should seek mammograms yearly. The current recommendation for women over 50 with no risk is a mammogram every 2 years.

This study, which was funded mainly by the National Cancer Institute, looked at US women age 50 and over. The women had a variety of breast health issues, ranging from no known increase to a known risk and from low-density to high-density breast tissue.

What Are "Dense" Breasts?

Breast density is determined by the amount of fibrous or glandular tissue a breast has, compared to the amount of fatty tissues present. Less fat and more fiber equals denser breasts.

Contrary to what you'll read on some blogs, breast density cannot be measured at home. Breast density is, says the American Cancer Society, unrelated to breast size, shape or firmness.

Why Not Yearly Mammograms For Every Woman?

So why doesn't every woman just play it safe and go in once a year? Because more mammograms, say researchers, mean more false positives. And that means more worry for healthy women and unnecessary, and invasive, medical tests like biopsies. That burden, claim some breast health experts, simply isn't worth it, even though they admit yearly screening could find more cancers earlier for some women.