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American College of Radiology

Breast Density

What is breast density?

Breast tissue is comprised of both fatty and fibroglandular tissue. Breasts are considered “dense” when more than 50% is made up of fibroglandular tissue.

A mammogram from a woman with non-dense breast tissue
A mammogram from a woman with non-dense breast tissue
  A mammogram from a woman with dense breast tissue
A mammogram from a woman with dense breast tissue 


Who has dense breast tissue?

Anyone can have dense breasts, but it is more common in younger women. Dense breast tissue cannot be seen or felt, and women with all different body types can have dense breast tissue.

How does breast density affect my cancer risk?

Breast density is an independent risk factor for developing breast cancer; women with dense breasts are at a 2-4 times higher risk of developing breast cancer than women without dense breasts. Mammography may not be as effective in women with dense breasts, as suspicious areas may not be seen due to the dense tissue.

Screening Breast Ultrasound (US)
Screening Breast Ultrasound (US)

What can you do if you have dense breast tissue?

Screening Breast Ultrasound (US)

  • Finds up to 24% more cancers in dense breast tissue
  • No radiation
  • Scans are quick (15 minutes) and well-tolerated
  • Most common imaging approach to detect cancer not seen on a mammogram for women with dense breasts
For Appointments 202.741.2244

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

  • Highly sensitive exam
  • No radiation
  • No injection
  • Not all women may be eligible to undergo the MRI exam
For Appointments 202.741.3036

Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI)/Breast-Specific Gamma Imaging (BSGI)

  • Metabolic approaches to breast imaging
  • A small dose of radioactive radiotracer is injected to detect abnormalities
  • Can be performed on nearly all women
For Appointments 202.741.3035