My Dense Breast Tissue Experience – Suzy

26 Sep 2017 by Krystal Barter

My name is Suzy and I am not sure if I am BRCA positive.

However I do have a high risk family history spanning three decades and for this reason I was able to qualify for a double preventative mastectomy. I was told in 2001 by a family member that my female aunts who developed breast cancers were screened via 2D mammogram often, but the cancers were missed due to having extremely dense breast tissue, resulting in mammography images not showing up the cancer. I was warned by this family member that when I needed breast screening, to also ask for 3D Mammogram, ultrasound imaging or MRI for a better picture.

Fast forward to 2013 and I found a lump in my left breast (aged 37). The imaging used to assess this lump showed that I do have extremely dense breast tissue (told to me by both the radiographers and my breast surgeon), resulting in mammograms that were not reliable. From then on it was ultrasound and mammograms. That first ultrasound also showed many more benign fibro-adenomas and a mix of complex and simple cyst with many needing six monthly biopsies to ensure no further cellular changes. This became an extremely anxious time in my life.

Through my endocrinologist/breast surgeon and the familial cancer clinic, I opted for the mastectomy, removing all the dense breast tissue, but chose to keep my own skin and nipples. I awoke from the surgery with a huge metaphoric (and physical) weight off my chest. I still require six monthly ultrasounds due to a small seroma in one breast, and will soon need another biopsy of a cystic looking lump under one of my nipples, but now I know all of that dense breast tissue has been removed and I can have faith in the imaging tests I am receiving. I don’t regret my decision, although some may not understand my choice given the fact I could not screen for the genetic link due to no living affected family members.

I know many women have dense breast tissue in fact 2 million Australian women are thought to have it, and I would recommend more thorough imaging and for you to ask your healthcare what personalised screening is right for you.

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