Mamograms & Dense Breasts

Hi All,

Im still trying to process what has happened to me with my diagnosis. I am in complete shock still and not coping very well at all.

One of the things I just need to vent about is why my diagnosis wasn’t picked up 4 months ago.

I am 43 now and was 42 in the late August when I went into hospital for screening as I felt a lump in my left breast.

As I was over 40 they gave me a mammogram only. This came back nothing to worry about all ok and gave me a demonstration on how to check my breasts properly as I wasn’t doing it correctly supposedly.

Anyway I came away feeling relieved happy and skipping not that I thought I would have cancer anyway as why would I always been told I’m at low risk. No History in family, breastfeed both my children healthy and young.

Beginning of Jan horrendously painful intermittent pain in my left breast fealt like an infection in my milk duct as I had experienced this before when breastfeeding. Doctor wasn’t happy and sent me back for screening. I wasn’t worried as why would I be had a mammogram 4 months ago. All my family and friend’s said the same.

This time they gave me other screening not a mammogram as I had one under 6 months ago. Cancer found in my left breast slow growing and would of been there in August.

Basically it turns out I have extremely dense breasts and my cancer would never show up on a mammogram and still didn’t in January.

Why oh why would they not automatically screen me differently in August as soon as it was obvious I had very dense breast. Thats 4 extra months.

Sorry but this has been annoying me and needed to vent.


I had similar thoughts when I was diagnosed with grade 3 multicentric cancer last August. I had several tumours, the largest 2 being 25mm and 20 mm. This was less than 2 years since my last routine mammogram. How could they have appeared and grown so big in such a short time?
I wanted answers. Then I thought, what difference would it make to me if I find out it was missed. How will it help me. It will just eat me up and make me feel bitter when I should be focusing on getting better.
It takes time to put these ‘what if’ thoughts behind you. Please think about getting rid of this horrible thing now.
Now you have a diagnosis there will be waiting for tests and results, which will be frustrating.
Best wishes for you x


Dense breasts are indeed an issue with screening and unfortunately they are also more prone to develop breast cancers so it’s a double whammy. Why don’t they do better screening? I can only comment from the United States and our healthcare here but we have transitioned to 3-d mammograms. They have helped tremendously because instead of taking two pictures of each area, they take multiple pictures that are then superimposed on each other giving a more thorough view of the breast. But I have had one every year totaling about 8 before my rather sizable lump was caught so they’re not perfect. They can add an ultrasound but without a specific place to look at, they’re not really good at catching problems. They are more for defining problems that are already caught by a mammogram. That just leaves an MRI. Well they’re great for catching cancers and unfortunately every other benign thing out there so just using them as a standard screening tool isn’t realistic both from a money stand point and from a stress standpoint. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people would qualify for a biopsy if those were used for screenings and how stressful and expensive that would be. So we’re stuck with mammograms and although they’re not perfect it’s the best we got considering the pros and cons of everything else. I know this isn’t much of a consolation right now but a four months wait probably isn’t going to be a factor in your prognosis. Breast cancers, even the aggressive ones, are normally not particularly fast moving compared to other cancers. That’s a factor in our favor and also why in the UK you only get screened every three years. Personally I don’t think that’s often enough because I’d be dead if I lived there and I’m hardly uncommon but for most women it is. They have still caught you in plenty of time for the great treatments we have to work.

Hi Thanks for your reply, I completely understand your point about everyone being screened via other methods, that would be too much. But if an individual is identifying with very dense breast I feel they should be given alternative screening that way its only dealing with those individuals who have dense breast and like you say are more at risk for BC anyway.

I just feel they need to change the processes for those who have very dense breasts. :tired_face:

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It’s something that they’re discussing here in the states, too. Sometimes our insurance will pay for an ultrasound on top of the mammogram but that’s not the norm. But yeah, it’s hard with dense breasts and considering that it’s not even remotely rare you’d think they’d be better at dealing with them by now. I will say you all need to upgrade to 3-d mammograms at least. That would be a big help.

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Fellow 43 year old with dense boobs too!

I had a 15mm tumour and 43mm DCIS. The cancer didn’t show on mammogram but luckily I did have an ultrasound which showed it. I then had an MRI to check for anything else. The DCIS wasn’t seen on anything!! I was just really lucky they got it out at the operation stage.

I am due to have MRIs for next 2 years which helps a little with reassuring me. The only other bit of useful info I got was that Tamoxifen makes breast tissue less dense, not sure if you are taking that? If so oncologist reassured me that after a couple of years the mammograms will become more effective. X

Dense breasts too! Luckily I got recalled for another because there were changed and combined with ultra sound and biopsy the diagnosis was confirmed.

Hi All, I don’t know where to start as I believe mammograms are mostly useless for women with dense breasts. I have very dense breasts, I have copies of the scans/X-rays. I mentioned that I had mild discomfort in my breast when I had a 3 yrly mammogram. The result was “nothing of concern”. My breast continued to be tender but I stupidly didn’t go to my GP as there was no lump. Within 6 months a 30mm lump appeared, Grade 3 Triple Negative invasive ductal breast cancer. Surgery showed also DCIS, I am certain DCIS was present on the mammogram but not visible due to dense breasts. I’ve had 2 x 6 cycles of chemo and radiotherapy, I am still recovering from the difficult legacy of side effects, I’m alive but always worried re recurrence. Surgery results were promising, clear margins, nodes normal. I have pushed to have MRIs as part of my 5 year surveillance even if it picks up benign stuff and I have biopsies I’d rather that than miss a recurrence with mammograms. Mammograms with contrast are being tested at various hospitals in the UK for under 40 yr olds, the contrast highlights cancer. But will this be available to women over 40 yrs old, many of whom have dense breasts. At the end of the day will NICE agree to it and will the NHS pay for it. The Daily Mail did a 2 page report recently re dense breasts and something needs to be done, I would sign up to any website set up to push this. Best wishes to everyone xxx

Hi all, I had a clear mammogram 6 months before I found a lump and was diagnosed with DCIS (through a further mammogram and ultrasound). They removed it but found grade 3 lobular cancer in the margins, that had not shown up on mammogram or ultrasound. I had an MRI followed by ultrasound on the other breast before having a left mastectomy. The woman that did my ultrasound said I have dense breast tissue and that is why it is hard to detect cancers with all of the screening tools they have. It really is just guess work until they get it out and see what it is. She told me that the NHS is moving to annual mammograms for those identified (through mammogram) to have dense breasts. I am still left wondering whether doing it more often is helpful if they can’t see it anyway. The MRI on my right breast showed there was something there and I got sent back to ultrasound to check it was (hopefully) not cancer. I am now wondering if I should press for an MRI for my annual check up.

Anyhow, I agree with Kay0987 and isitreallyme. It is all guess work and (in most cases) they do the best they can for us with the tools they have. You can’t change the past so focus on what is in your control. Breast cancers are normally slow growing so your (perfectly understandable) anxiety about it being undetected for four months will probably not make any difference to your prognosis. You can check this with your oncologist or nurse but whatever the answer it won’t change things now so best to focus your energy on your treatment and recovery.

Wishing you all the best x