Mammograms are widely considered one of the best options for detecting breast cancer, but more and more medical professionals are suggesting that mammograms might not be as effective as some have thought. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to those individuals who have dense breast tissue. Those individuals with dense breast tissue are effectively hit with two negatives, instead of just one. Not only are they more likely to have breast cancer at some point in their lives, but their mammograms are effectively that much more difficult to read.

It’s because of this that scientists are now looking for alternative methods to deal with breast cancer. Specifically, they are looking at how mammograms can be more effective, and how those individuals who have denser breast tissue, can still manage to get a clean bill of health. In fact, for many patients like Caryn Hoadley of California, who received a letter indicating that while the results of her mammogram appeared to be clean – her dense breast tissue ultimately put some uncertainty in the test.

mammography machine

The National Cancer Institute estimates that as many as 40% of all women in the U.S., actually have dense breast tissue that makes mammograms difficult – or impossible to read correctly, making diagnosis difficult or impossible. They also believe that as many as one in four of those women with “dense” breast tissue, actually have the densest of dense breast tissue. Breast tissue is measured on a scale of one to four, which makes four the densest of tissue.

One alternative is what’s known as a whole breast ultrasound. It looks at the entire breast and isn’t impacted by tissue density. This ultimately is a more effective test for many women, however is more expensive than traditional testing which is covered by most health insurances. This whole breast ultrasound, isn’t covered by most traditional health insurances. That’s where the debate comes in. Many individuals are starting to look at these alternatives though as a method for diagnosing breast cancer, as the mammogram is being debated more harshly. At the end of the day though, the decision should be made based on the individual who is receiving the test because for some women mammograms are still effective.