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Dense Breast Tissue May Increase Need for Mammogram Screening

It’s not uncommon for women over the age of 50 to be more than a little confused about how often they should go in for a mammogram. After all, advice may sometimes vary from doctor to doctor. The matter is complicated even more if dense breast tissue or other risk factors happen to be concerns. A recent study, however, shed some light on the topic, offering sound advice about when women should be tested and what factors might prompt doctors to request more frequent screening.

Researchers found the recommendation for screenings about once every two years was more than sufficient for most women age 50 or older. There are exceptions to the advice though. When risk factors are high, the study found that increased frequency may save lives. Factors that may prompt requests for more frequent scans after age 50 include, ethnicity, personal history, family history, genetic indicators and dense breast tissue.

Dense breast tissue was added to the lineup of risk factors for a few good reasons. Researchers found that a good percentage of women with normal breast tissue density without other risk factors might even be able to go as long as three years without screening without elevating their breast cancer-related death risk. Women with dense breast tissue, however, are more likely to have lesions that go undetected even when mammograms are performed. More frequent screenings may help doctors find these lesions faster and could lead to lifesaving treatments.

Other research has found that the use of newer, three-dimensional mammograms may also be advised for women with dense breast tissue. These more intensive scans have been shown to be more effective at finding early stage lesions in women with dense beast tissue.

The bottom line, researchers say, is that mammograms remain lifesaving tools. While some women over the age of 50 may find their frequency lower, women at higher risk, including those with dense tissue, may need to report in more frequently.

Since all women are at risk for breast cancer, it’s a good idea to talk with a healthcare provider about this condition. Knowing and identifying risks may lead to tailored screening recommendations that can help doctors gain the upper hand should this condition ever present.

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