Dr. Elizabeth Arena is the Director of the Breast Center at Surgery Group LA and she would like to inform women about what she and other healthcare providers are discussing with their patients following their mammograms: dense breasts.
Over half of women over 40 have dense breasts, which are breasts that are composed mainly of milk producing tissue versus fatty tissue. While anyone can have dense breasts, women who have taken hormone therapy or have lower body fat percentage have a higher chance of having dense breasts.
This is a concern for surgical oncologists like Dr. Arena because having dense breasts makes it trickier for her and other surgical oncologists to detect cancerous tissue through a mammogram. This is because cancerous tissue and dense tissue appear similar on mammograms.
This is by no means an indictment on mammograms
, . Mammograms are still the most effective way for Dr. Arena and other surgical oncologists to screen for breast cancer and to recommend operations. However if you believe you may have dense breasts, or have any other risk factors such as:
- Strong family history of breast cancer
- BRCA gene mutation
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Early history of chest radiation exposure
- Lifestyle habits and obesity
you may consider screening earlier than the recommended age of 40. There are also newer screening techniques like 3D Mammograms, MRIs, and ultrasound that can offer better cancerous tissue detection for women with dense breasts.
While having breast cancer can happen to anyone, Dr. Arena stresses that lifestyle choices play a big factor in decreasing your risk. Avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, and keeping your weight at a healthy BMI all can help decrease your risk.
However the most important way to manage risks of breast cancer is to speak with a healthcare provider. They will be able to go over risk factors with you and plan the screenings that may be best for you.
Dr. Elizabeth Arena is a double board-certified surgical oncologist and general surgeon, specializing in caring for patients with benign or malignant diseases of the breast. As one of the first-ever American Board Certified Surgical Oncologists, Dr. Arena has specific expertise that makes her one of the most esteemed breast surgeons in the greater Los Angeles area.