Dense breast tissue refers to the appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram. It's a normal and common finding.

Breast tissue is composed of milk glands, milk ducts and supportive tissue (dense breast tissue), and fatty tissue (nondense breast tissue). When viewed on a mammogram, women with dense breasts have more dense tissue than fatty tissue.

Is 3D mammography better for women with dense breast tissue?

A major study was presented in 2014 that found that digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography, has the potential to significantly increase the cancer detection rate in mammography screening of women with dense breasts. Research has shown that dense breasts are more likely to develop cancer, a problem compounded by the fact that cancer in dense breasts can be difficult to detect on conventional 2D mammograms.

Breast screening can involve a number of different methods: film-screen mammography, 2D digital mammography, 3D mammography, ultrasound and MRI. While digital mammography picks up more tumors than film-screen mammography in women with dense breasts, it is not perfect. Fatty tissue appears gray on a mammogram, and fibro-glandular tissue – dense tissue – appears white. Unfortunately, tumors also appear white on a mammogram, so the denser the breast, the more it can potentially mask a cancer.

'It's like finding a snowflake in a snowstorm'

In a medical article, that's how one breast cancer oncologist described trying to find small cancers amid dense tissue. Tomosynthesis, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011, offers an alternative screening method.

The 3D imaging appears to give a more complete, layer-by-layer picture of the breast, “unmasking” cancers that may be lurking in dense tissue. Tomosynthesis and 2D digital mammography can also be done on the same machine at the same time, adding only a few seconds to the patient’s imaging procedure.

DIS radiologists believe that in the near future, 3D mammography will be the standard of care in breast cancer detection. That standard of care is what we now offer within a non-hospital, friendly outpatient environment -- an environment much preferred by tens of thousands of women in southeast Louisiana.

Better detection. Removing the uncertainty for radiologists and medical providers. Decreasing false positives and call backs for additional studies. They all add up to benefit after benefit at Diagnostic Imaging Services and our 3D mammography offering.

3D mammography is performed at our Metairie - Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Marrero - Avenue C, Slidell and Covington - Highway 21 locations.

What Are Dense Breasts