Dense Breast Tissue Can Impede Detection of Breast Cancer – Warnings & Tips

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Pink ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Breast cancer is a great concern to all women at any age.  Fortunately, under normal circumstances, detection is relatively easy if we follow the rules:  monthly personal examinations and yearly mammograms.  The adage that early detection is one of the big solutions to catching and remitting the onset of cancer has now been thoroughly impressed upon the public.  But wait…there appears to be a benign condition, called dense breast tissue, that can impede the early detection of cancer.  Perhaps it can block the current method of detecting cancer altogether.  Dr. Laurie Steelsmith, a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist whose specialty is women’s health, helps explain what exactly this benign condition is, how it impedes detection of breast cancer, and some remedies for women regarding dense breasts.

Dense Breasts: 4 Remedies
By Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc
(Used with permission)

Dense breasts is more than a descriptor of breast mass. It’s a condition that can have health consequences.

This week, children’s book author Judy Blume announced on her blog that she recently received a diagnosis of breast cancer after getting a routine ultrasound, and then underwent a mastectomy. She made a point of saying that her dense breast tissue had made her cancer impossible to detect through either a physical exam or mammogram.

dense breast tissueBreast density can indeed prevent mammography from highlighting suspicious markings. The dense tissue literally blocks the view. That’s why an ultrasound is the better detection option for women who have dense breasts.

Not surprisingly, hormones are a big factor in many breast-related conditions. Young women have more circulating hormones; therefore, their breast tissue is typically dense. That’s because breast tissue contains estrogen receptors, a destination for circulating estrogen. When the liver can’t break down the body’s excess estrogen, then the risk of estrogen-related breast cancer increases.

Fat also plays a role in breast density. Because estrogen loves fat, premenopausal women who are overweight are generally more at risk for breast cancer because their fat stores are greater than in women of normal weight. And fat stores in the breast will attract estrogen.

However, even slim premenopausal women who ingest more estrogen than normal through the environment–or through estrogen-mimickers in products, including skin care items, cosmetics, and plastic containers–are also at risk for denser breasts, if their livers are not helping rid the body of these substances.

Postmenopausal women produce only a small amount of hormones through their adrenals. These hormones are converted, in the fat cells, to estrogen and progesterone. However, postmenopausal women’s livers, which have often become more toxic over many years, may not be up to the task of breaking down even the small amount of circulating estrogen in their systems. Another factor that can increase breast density is hormone replacement therapy.

The good news is that a woman with dense breasts and too much circulating estrogen can take action to improve her condition. Here are four potential remedies and strategies that can help.

1.  Eliminate coffee and caffeine. Coffee contains methylxanthine. Chocolate contains theobromine. Both substances, derived from xanthine, are stimulants that are associated with creating fibrous tissue in the breast. By going cold turkey off these two items for several days, a woman can determine whether her breast tissue is sensitive to either coffee or chocolate.

2.  Go easy on red meat. Unless you buy certified organic meat, you don’t know what hormone-related feed the animal has ingested. Also, too much fat congests the liver, which in turn prevents the liver from breaking down estrogens and other toxins.

3.  Try iodine. If a patient has dense breasts, a small daily amount of iodine–between 150 and 300 mcg–from an OTC brand may help. (This iodine supplement is not the first-aid iodine that one puts on wounds.)

Iodine helps support thyroid hormone production, which subsequently can decrease estrogen stimulation of breast tissue. Women should also eat seaweed, which is an iodine-rich food.

4. Eat cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower all contain indole-3-carbinol, a compound that helps the liver break down estrogen into more benign components. The detoxifying qualities of these cruciferous vegetables make them an excellent choice for women with dense breasts.

* * * * *

Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist whose specialty is women’s health. She’s the author of a new book, Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine (Hay House, 2012) and the bestseller Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine
Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness.
 Learn more at


About Sandra Bell Kirchman

My passion is for fiction, especially fantasy fiction. I have been writing nearly all my life, since the age of 7 when I produced a 5-page novel called "Angus the Ant" - self-illustrated. My most recent novel WITCHCANERY is not about an ant and is available at most online booksellers. "Witchcanery" has won several awards and has met with modest, yet enthusiastic, acclaim from readers around the world. I've also edited and published an anthology for the writers at my site, called "Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories," including short stories by fantasy novelist Stephanie Cresswell. Both books are available on Kindle; the latter is also available on Nook. Both books are sold as hard copies at most major online outlets as well as being available as paperbacks. One of my later ventures was horror stories; surprisingly, since horror stories scare me, I find I have a special affinity for them, especially in flash fiction format (under 1000 or less words). Currently, I am working on two WIPs, one a sequel to "Witchcanery," which several readers have made me promise to write; the other an apocalyptic novel called "The Road to the End of the World." There are several examples of this latter novel in my blog "Fantasyfic," formerly known as "Wizards and Ogres and Elves - Oh My!" Fantasyfic is on hold temporarily, while I work on my other two sites--"News, Views, and Gurus," and the said "Fantasyfic.". My other blogs keep me hopping. One is a roundup of news and some fun pieces from around the world. It is listed under the name of "News, Views, and Gurus." My blog "Puppy Dog Tales" is an ongoing sometimes humorous account of my adventures as an avid pet parent and animal lover. My little Shih-Tzu Ling Ling and my long-haired Mexican chihuahua are the joys of my life...and so is my husband, but I don't write about him. Anyhow, my blog "Puppy Dog Tales" is a work of love, featuring my doggies and other pets around the world. I'm a devoted advocate of animal rights and especially backing the cause of animal rescue shelters. My wonderful husband and I live in a very small town in southeastern Saskatchewan on the south side in a rustic, cedar-sided home. Our property is almost a whole acre, and is gracious and pretty (which is not easy to be in one package). All four of us are happy here.

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