Women with dense breasts have a greater likelihood of cancer
A Clearer Picture?
Regular film mammograms (right) remain the gold standard. But other, more sensitive technologies are in use or under study for certain groups of women, including those who have dense breasts. They may be expensive and hard to find, but if you're at elevated risk of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about:
Digital mammography. Computer-generated testing works about as well as regular mammograms in most women, but it is more effective at spotting trouble in younger women and those with dense breasts.
Ultrasound. At the moment, ultrasound-which uses sound waves to create an image of the breast-is prescribed as a follow-up to evaluate lumps and other abnormalities.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This supersensitive test produces a lot of false positives and is more onerous than mammography. It's not used as a general screening test but rather as a tool to assess known cancers or to screen women at very high risk of breast cancer.
Digital tomosynthesis. This new technology creates a 3-D picture of the breast using multiple X-rays. It may find cancers not seen on a mammogram. For now, tomosynthesis is available only for research purposes. But stay tuned.