Understanding Breast Density

Breasts are made up of a mixture of fibrous and glandular tissue and fatty tissue. Your breasts are considered dense if you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue but not much fat. Density usually decreases with age. Breast density is determined by the radiologist who reads your mammogram and will be included in your imaging report. In fact, under the NJ Breast Density Law, reports must include information about breast density. The legislation also requires insurers to cover follow-up evaluations, such as ultrasound or MRI, in women with dense breast tissue.

Why is breast density important?

Dense breasts do make it more difficult for doctors to spot cancer on mammograms. Having dense breast tissue may increase your risk of getting breast cancer

If I have dense breasts, do I still need a mammogram?

Yes, a mammogram is the only medical imaging screening test proven to reduce breast cancer deaths. Many cancers are seen on mammograms even if you have dense breast tissue.

Are there any tests that are better than a mammogram for dense breasts?

In breasts that are dense, cancer can be hard to see on a mammogram. Studies have shown that ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help find breast cancers that can’t be seen on a mammogram. These are supplemental examinations intended to be used in conjunction with mammography to increase the ability to detect breast cancer in extremely dense breast parenchyma.

What should I do if I have dense breasts?

If you have dense breasts, talk to your doctor. Together, you can decide which, if any, additional screening exams are right for you.

For a referral to a RWJBarnabas Health primary care physician or breast specialist, call 888-724-7123.

What New Jersey Law Regarding Breast Density Means for Patients and Physicians

New Jersey state law requires all women to be notified of their breast density and provides for additional screening coverage for women with extremely dense breasts.

Breast density on mammography refers to the relative density of fibroglandular tissue vs. fat. The greater the amount of fibroglandular tissue (seen as white on mammograms) vs. fat (seen as gray), the greater the chance of a breast cancer hiding from sight. Also, since breast cancer develops primarily from glandular tissue and ducts, the greater the amount of fibroglandular tissue, the greater the substrate for developing cancer.

The American College of Radiology defines breast density on mammograms in four categories:

  • Almost entirely fatty: 10 percent of women
  • Scattered areas of fibroglandular tissue: 40 percent of women
  • Heterogeneously dense tissue: 40 percent of women
  • Extremely dense tissue: 10 percent of women

Those women with "extremely dense" breasts have two times the risk of developing breast cancer than the average female population. As per the new law, those women with this category of density are eligible for additional methods of screening for breast cancer, covered by insurance.

The additional methods can help to detect cancer that may not be seen on mammograms. The main two supplementary methods are whole-breast ultrasound and breast MRI. Ultrasound is preferable for women with an average risk for developing breast cancer, while for women at high risk, such as women with a family history of breast cancer, MRI is a better choice.

Please note that these supplementary tests are in conjunction with and don't replace mammography, which remains the main screening tool.

Additional online resources include:

Patient Stories

  • “For people who are going through what I’m going through, I want them to not be afraid, to feel empowered and to remain confident about the possibilities in life.”

    Ferlie
    Read More
  • “Consider stepping outside of your comfort zone and make a stretch gift that is meaningful to you.”

    Rolando “Roly”
    Read More
  • “I realized I can truly get through anything.”

    Annamarie
    Read More

Patient Stories

  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial
Medical Specialty Services at Bayonne
16 East 29th Street
Bayonne, NJ 07002
(973) 926-7280
View
The Jacqueline M. Wilentz Breast Center at Howell
4013 Route 9
Suite 2S
Howell, NJ 07731
(732) 923-7700
View
The Jacqueline M. Wilentz Breast Center at Colts Neck
310 Route 34 South
Second Floor
Colts Neck, NJ 07722
(732) 923-7700
View
Cristie Kerr Women's Health Center
377 Jersey Avenue
Ground Floor, Medical Office Building
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(877) 393-5374
View
Center for Breast Health and Disease Management - Westfield
560 Springfield Ave
Westfield, NJ 07090
(973) 322-7020
View
Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center
200 South Orange Avenue
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-7000
View
The Family Health Center (FHC) at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
166 Lyons Avenue
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7300
View
Community Medical Center Women's Imaging Center - Toms River
368 Lakehurst Rd
1st Floor
Toms River, NJ 08755
(732) 557-3363
View
Madeline Fiadini LoRe Foundation Infusion Center
414 Grand Street
Suite 9
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2730
View
The Jacqueline M. Wilentz Breast Center at Monmouth Medical Center
300 Second Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 923-7700
View
Jersey City Medical Center Radiation Oncology
631 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07304
(844) 226-2376
View
Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
View
Monmouth Medical Center
300 Second Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 222-5200
View
Clara Maass Medical Center
1 Clara Maass Drive
Belleville, NJ 07109
(973) 450-2000
View
Community Medical Center
99 Highway 37 West
Toms River, NJ 08755
(732) 557-8000
View
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
View
Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
View
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany St.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 235-2465
View
Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
View
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at RWJUH
200 Somerset Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
View
RWJ University Hospital Rahway
865 Stone Street
Rahway, NJ 07065
(732) 381-4200
View
RWJ University Hospital Somerset
110 Rehill Avenue
Somerville, NJ 08876
(908) 685-2200
View
The Jacqueline M. Wilentz Breast Center at Lakewood
600 River Ave
Lakewood, NJ 08701
(732) 923-7700
View
Trinitas Regional Medical Center – Williamson Street Campus
225 Williamson St
Elizabeth, NJ 07202
(908) 994-5000
View
The Unterberg Children's Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center
300 2nd Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 923-7250
View
Monmouth Medical Center Outpatient Infusion Center
100 State Route 36 West
West Long Branch, NJ 07764
(732) 222-6046
View
RWJ University Hospital Hamilton
1 Hamilton Health Place
Hamilton, NJ 08690
(609) 586-7900
View
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
View
Jersey City Medical Center Women's Health at Grove Street
116 Newark Avenue
(at Grove Street PATH Plaza)
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 984-1270
View
Center for Breast Health and Disease Management - Livingston
200 South Orange Avenue
Suite 102
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-7020
View
Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus
600 River Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701
(732) 363-1900
View
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
125 Paterson Street
Clinical Academic Building (CAB)
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 235-6200
View
Community Medical Center Lab & Women’s Imaging Center – Barnegat
770 Lighthouse Drive
Suite 118A
Barnegat, NJ 08005
(848) 208-6203
View
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group at Monroe
800 Bunn Drive
Suite 303
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 655-5178
View
Laurie Proton Therapy Center
141 French Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 253-3176
View
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group
18 Centre Drive
Clinical Academic Building (CAB)
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(609) 655-5178
View
Cancer Center at RWJ Hamilton
2575 Klockner Road
Hamilton Township, NJ 08690
(609) 631-6960
View

Breast Care Treatment & Care

offered at these locations in your neighborhood

View All Locations