01 DEC 2021

3D Mammography Could Save Your Life

A woman outside smiling as she looks off into the distance.
About half of women who are 40 or older have dense breasts, which refers to how breast tissue appears on a mammogram.

The statistics are clear. Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in women; however, statistics also show that early detection leads to improved rates of survival.

But what if your mammogram reveals dense breasts?

About half of women who are 40 years old or older have dense breasts. Breast density is a radiologic term that refers to how breast tissue appears on a mammogram. Breast tissue is made up of fibrous tissue, glandular tissue and fatty tissue.

"The dense breast tissue on a mammogram is when we see a lot of that glandular and supportive tissue, and not so much of the fatty tissues,” explains oncologist/hematologist Jonathan Lopez, M.D. “It can make screening for cancer more challenging.”

On a mammography report, breast density is assigned to one of four categories:

  • The breasts are almost entirely fatty (about 10 percent of women).
  • A few areas of dense tissue are scattered through the breasts (about 40 percent of women).
  • The breasts are evenly dense throughout (about 40 percent of women).
  • The breasts are extremely dense (about 10 percent of women).

Women in the first two categories are said to have low-density, non-dense, or fatty breasts. Women in the second two categories are said to have high-density or dense breasts. And dense breast tissue is a risk factor for breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It may also mask small breast cancers.

Annual mammograms are an important screening tool. And 3D mammography, also known as tomosynthesis, can be especially effective. NorthBay offers 3D mammography through Solano Diagnostic Imaging. The process renders a 3D image of the breast by combining images of individual tissue layers. This technique is the most significant change in the way mammograms are done since the industry started going digital decades ago. Research shows that 3D mammograms reduce call-backs for additional images, reduce false positives and increase cancer detection.

Learn more about NorthBay's diagnostic imaging services for women. To schedule a mammogram, call Solano Diagnostic Imaging at (707) 646-4646.

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