News and Information

Advanced Breast Screening for Cancer Detection

10-12-2015

More than 40% of women have dense breast tissue, and most may not know it. Unfortunately, those with dense breast tissue are at greater risk of cancer. Dense breasts can mask cancer making it difficult to detect on a regular mammogram. If cancer is present, advanced screening for women with dense breasts can help doctors find cancer in an early stage when it is more treatable.

CaroMont was the first health system in the region to offer Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS), the only breast cancer screening technology specifically developed, and FDA-approved, for women with dense breast tissue.

ABUS Screening uses sound waves to create 3D pictures of the breast tissue. If a woman is identified as having dense breast tissue, ABUS screening (along with a regular mammogram) will help provide a more accurate evaluation of breast health.

"Dense tissue can make it difficult to find cancer on a mammogram, and ABUS can find cancers in dense breast tissue that could be missed on a mammogram,” says Dr. Heidi Hartman, Breast Imaging Specialist with Gaston Radiology and CaroMont Health. “In fact, ABUS can come close to doubling the breast cancer detection rate for women with dense tissue. This will allow us to find small, curable cancers that would have been missed with mammography alone.”

Some frequently asked questions about breast density and screening:

Q: What does it mean to have dense breast tissue? Why is breast density important?

A: Breast tissue consists of fatty and fibroglandular tissue. Dense breast tissue is defined as having a higher percentage of fibroglandular tissue within your breasts. If more than 50% of the breast is made of fibroglandular tissue, then they are classified as “dense.” The sensitivity of mammography is significantly diminished in women with dense breast tissue. Additionally, women with dense breast tissue have a greater risk of developing breast cancer than women with minimal fibroglandular tissue in their breasts.

Q: My breasts don’t feel dense. I must not have dense breast tissue, right?

A: Breast density cannot be determined by palpation or by the appearance of the breasts on exam—it can only be determined by a medical expert’s evaluation and interpretation of a mammogram.

Q: Isn’t dense breast tissue only a problem for young women?

A: Generally speaking, it is true that younger women usually have more dense breast tissue and most women will have fatty replacement of dense glandular breast tissue as they age. However, dense breast tissue is a fact of life for women of all ages. 74% of women in their 40s, 57% of women in their 50s, 44% of women in their 60s and 36% of women in their 70s have dense breast tissue.

Q: Does this mean that I’m done with mammography?

A: Mammography is still the gold standard. Supplemental screening is meant to complement mammography, not replace it. If a doctor recommends a breast ultrasound exam, it should not be performed in isolation. However, a woman with dense breast tissue may not require ongoing supplemental screening if her breast density changes.

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The full screening process takes less than 45 minutes and provides state-of-the-art 3D ultrasound images. The patient’s physician will then review the ABUS images along with the mammogram to provide guidance on additional testing or treatment.

To learn more about Automated Breast Ultrasound, speak with your doctor or call 704.834.2474.

Categories: Health, Q&A