BUDDY CHECK 7: The role of dense breast tissue

Published: Nov. 7, 2017 at 8:27 PM CST
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Breast density plays an important role when doctors look at a mammogram to try and detect breast cancer.

A bill introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature in late October would require doctors to alert patients about their breast density, so they can make more educated decisions about their future health plans.​

Dr. Sarah Nielsen is a breast imaging radiologist with Marshfield Clinic. She says the classification for women who have dense breasts isn't uncommon.

More than 40 percent of women over the age of 40 have what's considered dense breast tissue, she says. It does play a role when it comes to risk factors for breast cancer.

"Breast density in itself is an independent risk factor for developing breast cancer. Particularly in women who are extremely dense. They're at four to six times more likely to develop a breast cancer than a woman with a fatty easier to read mammogram," Dr. Nielsen said.

Currently, 31 other states already have similar laws in place that require physicians to alert patients about dense breast tissue if it's detected. Nine states have bills circulating similar to Wisconsin's.