Dense breasts

Hi there, I have just had my first mammogram a year on from being diganosed with bc, I have finished all active treatment (chemo, mastectomy, rads) and no further medication for me as triple negative. The doctor told me from my mammogram that it looks fine BUT hard to say for certain as I have very dense breast tissue, dense tissue shows up white on a mammogram but so does cancer, so makes early detection difficult. She did give me a ultrasound scan after because of this and again said all looks okay but told me I need to be on the ball with self examintaion. Alarm bells are well and truly ringing! I was wondering if anyone has dense breast tissue also and can offer me any advice? I am planning on asking to see my consultant and discuss things with him, I have googled (stuck to breast cancer care site only) and read that this can increase the risk of getting breast cancer? so coupled with having already having had bc, being TN and dense boobs I am rather freaked out!. Thanks for reading. Sarah x

Hi stitchyboy,

Sorry you haven’t had any response to your question yet, but our helpline team will be only too happy to talk to your about your concerns. Calls are free, 0808 800 6000, lines open Mon-Fri 9-5 and Sat 10-2.

Take care,

Jo, Facilitator

Hi Sarah,

I too have dense breasts and as a result my cancer was missed on my mamogram but found by ultrasound. My consultant has said that I will have annual MRI scans beginning in june, a year after my diagnosis. it might be worth speaking to your consultant to see if they would do an MRI for you too. Michelle xx

Hi, Dense breasts are common amongst the under 50’s. Don’t think they give you a raised risk as such, it’s just that younger women tend to have more dense breasts. My massive lump did not show on the mammogram despite everyone beng able to feel it. If ultrasound is not reassuring you, then your option is to try and persuade them to do MRI. They tend to be reluctant due to the cost. As you are TN - have you had genetic testing? If you are positive then you are much more likely to get MRI. They will say that the MRI also picks up all sorts that are not cancer, so it can make you anxious - you have to bear this in mind. For me, the mammogram makes me anxious, cos I know it deos not work!

I too have very dense breasts but I found my lump myself as just under the age for mamograms so Im sure its possible to notice lumps/change, being aware of our breasts is good because we will notice any differences so I just check mine regulary my first mamogram is due on 19th Feb and Im terrified also because of this dense issue so I am so glad you posted as would not have thought of asking for an ultrasound if there is any doubt at all

Janice x

I had dense breasts and mine was missed on a mammogram I was 56 when diagnosed. I got the all clear and then two months later I noticed a thickening in my breast and my nipple looked a bit wonky I went to my gp who referred me and I was diagnosed with breast cancer the tumour was 9cm and I had large node involvement. You are right that cancer cannot be seen so easily with dense beasts hence mine even though 9cm was not seen. My radiologist showed me my scans and compared them to someone with less dense breasts and mine was just white (like snow). I have asked about having mri’s and ultra scans for my good breast but my consultant wasn’t happy with that - he said that an ultra scan is not a screening tool so would be a waste of time and an Mri scan would pick everything up and I would end up being over treated. He told me the best way is to check my breasts myself (along with my 6 monthly checks I have with him) as I know my breasts. The chances of getting another primary in your other breast are very low and that is what he is based his advice on. I am not sure about this and would welcome other views.

I’ve always had a problem with dense breasts. My understanding is that dense breasts mean you have a larger number of cells, thus more potential for things to go wrong. My first BC was a lump, discovered when I was 31. I also have multiple cysts (during one false alarm I was told that, in addition to the large cyst I was worried about, I had scores of smaller ones shown up by the ultrasound), so have had lots of investigations over the years. Each time, they did a mammogram and then told me they would also need to do an ultrasound because they could not use the mammogram. I had my first routine mammogram when I turned fifty, and was told it was clear. Two years later, I found I had another lump. It turned out to be a grade 3 IBC with node involvement. The lump is roughly 8cm x 8cm, and my breasts are not huge (34D). I’m not sure if it is particularly aggressive and grew quickly, or whether it was there all along and missed by the mammogram. It does help to be breast aware, but for those of us who also have benign breast disease it can be difficult to know what to follow up and what to leave. I have to have a mastectomy in my left breast, but will probably decide to opt for a double Mx because I have recently discovered I have an area of ADH in what I thought was my “good” side. I have had enough and don’t want to risk getting cancer a third time. At least this way I won’t need any more mammograms.

Thank you all for your helpful replies, I am trying to find out all I can so to “try” and be as on top of things as I can. I have just turned 40 so guess this is the main reason for having dense breast tissue. I personally feel that although a mammogram is never a 100% gurantee for anyone the added issue of having dense breast tissue and maybe not showing up any problem is too much of an added worry for me, coming out of the hospital with as far as i can see everything is ok really doesn’t sit well with me. I very much feel at this point of time I would rather opt for another mastectomy and be done with it! I am at present waiting to find out if I can have the genetic testing for BRCA1/BRAC2, I have no 1st degee history of bc in my family but 2 second cousins, I am hoping that due to being TN and 39 at the time of diognosis will be enough. I was doing quite well up until now really and am feeling really quite low at the moment, probably due to having 1st mammogram the worry of what I was going to be told whilst waiting to see the doctor, old emotions came flooding back with a wham! Going wigless for the 1st time last week doing the school run seems like an invite for all the mums that have been dying to ask me questions the invite to do so, and having to talk about it again and again, and my god the stupid things some have said!!!. Sorry for the rant xxx