Boobs. The Girls. Tatas. Breasts have a lot of names and yet most people have very little understanding of them and how they work, and likely even less understanding of breast cancer. Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Month, observed in April, is a perfect opportunity to fix that, including sharing critical information about dense breasts.

Dense breast tissue is normal.1 People can have it for a number of reasons, including genetics, age (breast tissue tends to get less dense over time, and especially after menopause), and breast size (smaller breasts are often more dense). Yet women with dense breast tissue are at a slightly elevated risk for developing breast cancer.2

Described as simply as possible, breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the cells of the breast. Catching breast cancer early is critical, as early detection can lead to positive outcomes. Dense breast tissue complicates this as it makes cancers more difficult to detect. The fibrous and glandular tissue associated with dense breasts appear white on a mammogram – just like cancer does. Confusing the situation even more is that the only way to know you have dense breasts is by having a mammogram. Healthcare providers recommend annual breast screening with mammography beginning at age 40 for average risk women.3

According to new FDA guidelines,4 by September 2024, all breast imaging facilities must alert a patient by letter if they have dense breasts and will recommend they contact their clinicians who can discuss potential follow-ups and risk assessment. For women with dense breasts, additional screening methods such as ultrasound or MRI may be recommended together with mammography to improve cancer detection rates.

Dense breasts present unique challenges in breast cancer screening, but awareness and proactive management can help mitigate these challenges. By advocating for regular screenings and exploring supplemental screening options when appropriate, women can take control of their breast health and improve the chances of detecting cancer at an early, treatable stage. Remember, knowledge and early action are powerful allies in the fight against breast cancer.

Why Cancer Risk Screenings Are Important

  • Early Detection Saves Lives: Regular screenings are essential for detecting breast cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages. When breast cancer is diagnosed early, the chances of successful treatment and survival are significantly higher.5
  • Personalized Risk Assessment: Screening mammograms provide valuable information about a woman’s breast health and help identify individuals who may benefit from additional screening options based on their breast density and other risk factors.
  • Knowledge is Power: By understanding their breast density and cancer risk, women can make informed decisions about their screening options and take proactive steps to prioritize their well-being.

Family Cancer History and Hereditary Cancer Screening

In addition to regular mammograms, knowing your family cancer history is an important factor in understanding if you may be at a higher risk for breast cancer. Myriad Genetics uses the acronym MYR to explain what to look for:

M – Multiple cancers in your family – especially ask about breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer, metastatic prostate cancer, and pancreatic, colon, or rectal cancer
Y – Young – if a family member was diagnosed with a cancer at a younger age (such as breast cancer under 50)
R – Rare cancers such as ovarian and male breast cancer

Knowing this information may qualify you for hereditary cancer testing. The MyRisk® with RiskScore® Hereditary Cancer Test tells you your hereditary and familial risk for certain cancers, then recommends actions like additional screenings to better protect your health.

Knowing your risk is an important step in prevention, early detection, and treatment of breast cancer. To find out if you are a candidate for the MyRisk with RiskScore, visit