Penn Highlands Elk Now Offering Breast Density Testing

Lisa Housler, Imaging Director at ERHC, said a new computer software program called VolparaTM was recently installed on the hospital’s digital mammography system. The screening is done simultaneously with the mammogram and the use of iCAD, computer-aided detection giving Elk Regional a complete set of diagnostic tools at its disposal.

Breast tissue density refers to the amount of fat and glandular tissue in the breast as seen on a mammogram; a dense breast has more glandular tissue than fat. More than 50 percent of women have dense breast tissue, according to the American College of Radiology.

Does it matter if a woman has dense breast tissue? The answer is yes! Dense breasts can make it more difficult to spot cancer on mammograms. While fat appears gray on mammogram images, both tumors and dense breast tissue appear white. Radiologists looking for tumors – trying to pick white spots out of a mostly white field – may not find them. So, mammograms can be less sensitive in women with dense breasts. Even so, women should still have a yearly mammogram because many cancers still can be seen even if a woman has dense breast tissue. Mammograms are still the gold standard in screening for breast cancers.

American Cancer Society provides the following screening guidelines;

  • Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
  • Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.

Beginning Feb. 1, there is something new on our reports. Women who have their mammograms performed at ERHC will find we are using new language in our patient result letters that details their breast density score. The notification will explain how to interpret the results. This information will be included in the mammography report sent to the patient’s healthcare provider. If a woman has dense breast tissue, she will be advised to discuss the condition and follow-up care with her physician.

Even if a woman’s breasts are not dense, she should still be knowledgeable about other factors for breast cancer, including family history and age.

Women should discuss their history with their doctor. Even if a woman is at low risk, she should still get an annual mammogram starting at age 40.

Elk Regional Health Center has offered state-of-the-art digital mammography since 2009. Adding the new component for breast tissue density testing is another way the hospital is investing in women’s health and delivering clinical excellence where it matters most.

"Having this advanced technology here at Elk Regional Health Center allows us even greater ability to diagnose breast cancer at its earliest stages, giving women the best chance."