Dense Breasts

This information is useful for adults and older adults
portrait of a middle aged woman

Annual mammograms are recommended for women age 40 and over to screen for breast cancer. Your radiologist may then notify you if you have “dense breast tissue” (as about half of women do). It’s nothing to worry about, but additional screening tests are recommended because mammograms are less accurate in detecting cancer in women who have dense breasts.

You can’t tell if your breasts are dense simply based on your body type, weight or the size and feel of your breasts. “Dense breast tissue is determined by the way the breast looks on the mammogram, not by how the breasts feel on physical examination,” says Regina Hooley, MD, a Yale Medicine radiologist, who is a breast imaging expert at the Breast Center at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital. Women with dense breasts should consider further tests, including ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), depending on breast cancer risk. At Yale Medicine, women who don’t have dense breasts are told this when their mammograms are read, so they don’t have to wonder.

Be sure to contact your insurance company before scheduling a mammogram or additional screenings to check your coverage.