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Lets Talk Health Q & A

Have a question you forgot to discuss at the doctor’s office or are too embarrassed to ask? The experts at Samaritan Health Services are here to help. Oct / Nov

Q: My recent mammogram showed no sign of breast cancer but indicated I have dense breast tissue. Should I be concerned?

A: Having dense breast tissue is very common and varies from person to person. Based on the mammogram, breast density is grouped into four categories — from almost entirely fatty tissue (category A) to extremely dense (category D). While most breast cancers can be seen on a mammogram, having dense breast tissue can make it harder to detect because cancers and dense breast tissue both appear white on the scan. Women with dense breast tissue may also be at slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer, but the link between these two is not proven. Whether you have dense breast tissue or not, it is important that you know what feels normal for your breasts and to stay current on your mammograms.

Talk with your health care provider if you have further questions about your breast density, your personal risk for breast cancer and when to schedule your next mammogram. If you notice any changes in your breasts, especially a new lump, talk with your health care provider right away.

— Yarrow McConnell, MD, FACS, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center Breast & Surgical Oncology

Q: I’m like clockwork when it comes to getting my yearly mammogram. I’m wondering, though, should I consider an MRI exam in addition to the mammogram?

A: Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancers and have been proven to reduce women’s risk of dying from breast cancer.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a specialized test that is sometimes recommended in addition to mammograms for women at high risk of breast cancer. That is, for women who have a proven genetic mutation that puts them at high risk or who have had radiation treatment to their chest wall during their teenage years or in their 20s for other forms of cancer.

There are ongoing studies about whether MRI combined with mammogram is useful in women with dense breast tissue who do not have high risk factors. Because MRI has a high false-positive rate, leading to more biopsies of tissues that don’t end up being cancers, MRI is not recommended in women with dense breast tissue and no other presenting risk factor.

If you are at higher risk of breast cancer due to family history or other factors, talk with your doctor about whether you qualify for screening with MRI, in addition to mammogram.

— Rachel Shirley, DO, FACS, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center Breast & Surgical Oncology


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Call Samaritan Health Services Find a Doctor line at 800-863-5241 to find a provider who is right for you.


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