Breast density: answering your questions

Doctor looks at mammogram

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) Many women don’t know about breast density and how it can affect your risk for breast cancer. eightWest presented some viewer questions to Dr. Judy Smith of Spectrum Health Cancer Center.

I want to get a mammogram to be proactive, but I am under 40 years old.

National guidelines recommend women get a mammogram at age 40, then every year starting at age 50. Women should also do a breast self-exam every month starting at adolescence. Mammograms are recommended for women under the age of 40 if they have a high risk of breast cancer such as a strong family history or if you find something during a self-exam. Keep in touch with your doctor and talk about any questions you may have.

>>> Step-by-step self-breast examination

I found out I have dense breasts. What questions do I need to ask my doctor?

It’s important to note that because you have dense breasts, it does not mean you have cancer. There are two different levels of dense breasts: categories 3 and 4. Talk to your doctor about risk factors if you’re a 3. If you’re a 4, consider additional screening. As always, talk to your doctor.

If I have dense breasts, what screening options are available beyond a mammogram?

MRI, tomosynthesis, ultrasound, molecular breast imaging, thermal imaging, and contrast enhanced spectral mammography are all tests that can better indicate if cancer is present in a dense breast. Talk to your doctor about what the next step is for you.

Breast cancer runs in my family. Who qualifies for genetic testing and what’s involved?

There are two types of genetic testing. A simple blood test checks for a hereditary predisposition by focusing on the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. Another type of testing involves personalized, targeted therapies that look at the cancer itself and do genetic testing on the cancer.

Spectrum Health Cancer Center
Judy Smith, MD
855-SH-CANCER (742-2623)

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