Scattered fibroglandular breast tissue describes the density and composition of a person’s breasts. It means that the breasts are mostly comprised of fatty tissue but have some dense pockets.

A combination of fatty, fibrous, and glandular tissue makes up the breasts. Each person has a different ratio of tissue types, which means that some people’s breasts are denser than other people’s.

The term scattered fibroglandular tissue describes breasts that are mostly fatty tissue but contain some pockets of denser fibrous and glandular tissue. About 40% of females have this type of breast tissue.

Scattered areas of dense tissue can make the breasts feel lumpy or uncomfortable, especially during a person’s menstrual cycle. These lumps are noncancerous, but they can make it more difficult to identify potentially dangerous lumps or breast changes.

Keep reading to learn about what to expect from a mammogram, how scattered fibroglandular tissue affects the breasts, and more.

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Breast density varies among individuals. A person’s breast composition can also change over time.

The American Cancer Society recommends that females aged 45–54 years get yearly mammograms. This screening can provide information about the density and composition of a breast. Denser tissue, including connective tissue and glands, shows up white, whereas the fatty tissue shows up darker.

Breasts can contain:

  • Low density tissue: Breasts with a low density contain mostly fatty tissue. About 10% of females in the United States have this kind of tissue. Studies suggest that people with low density breast tissue have a lower risk of breast cancer than those with other types.
  • Dense or extremely dense tissue: These breasts contain dense tissue throughout. This is the most common type of tissue, as about 50% of women in the U.S. have dense breasts. However, just 10% of women have extremely dense tissue. People with dense breasts may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those with low density breasts.
  • Scattered fibroglandular tissue: This breast tissue combines low density and high density tissue. About 40% of females in the U.S. have this kind of tissue. Although these individuals have a higher risk of breast cancer than those with low density breasts, they have a lower risk than those with high density breasts.

Learn more about what to expect during a mammogram.

Although it is unclear why some individuals have breast tissue with scattered fibroglandular densities, this type of breast tissue is common and not a cause for concern.

However, there are some factors that increase a person’s likelihood of having dense breast tissue. These include:

Other factors make someone less likely to have dense breasts, including:

  • going through menopause
  • having children
  • using the hormone therapy tamoxifen (Nolvadex)

Each person’s breasts are different, so the signs and symptoms of scattered fibroglandular breast tissue may vary among those with this tissue type. However, they may include:

  • lumps in the breasts
  • cysts, which are fluid-filled round or oval sacs
  • fibrosis, or prominent scar-like fibrous tissue
  • an overgrowth of cells in the lining of the milk ducts or milk-producing tissues

Knowing how the breasts usually feel and how they change throughout the monthly cycle can help a person determine whether unusual changes are occurring.

If the same changes happen every month, they are unlikely to be a cause for concern. However, if a new lump appears or there is a change that does not fluctuate throughout a menstrual cycle, it is best to contact a doctor.

It is important to remember that lumps in the breasts are common and that most breast lumps are not cancerous. There are many types of breast lumps, including cysts and fibroadenomas.

Learn how to identify breast lumps and when to contact a doctor.

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Photography courtesy of Indian Journal of Radiology and Imaging/OpenI

A mammogram can identify scattered fibroglandular breast tissue. It can determine what type of breast tissue a person has, and it can reveal any lumps in the breasts.

However, it cannot provide information about the type of lump. Only a biopsy can determine whether a lump is cancerous.

Most breast lumps are benign, or noncancerous. If a doctor is concerned about a particular lump, they may order a biopsy.

Learn what a breast biopsy involves.

Scattered fibroglandular breast tissue is not a disease, and it does not require treatment. It is a common type of breast tissue, and for most people, the benign lumps cause no issues.

However, some people experience pain or discomfort, especially before and during their menstrual cycles. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, may relieve these symptoms.

People with scattered fibroglandular breast tissue may also want to self-examine their breasts regularly. By becoming familiar with how their breasts feel and understanding their normal monthly fluctuations, they will be better able to identify any abnormal changes.

This is particularly important because having scattered fibroglandular breast tissue can make potentially cancerous lumps harder to spot.

The American College of Physicians recommends that people contact a doctor about breast screening from the age of 40 years. They also encourage those with an average risk of breast cancer to have a mammogram every 2 years between the ages of 50 and 74 years. However, the American Cancer Society encourages people aged 45–54 years to get yearly mammograms.

A doctor can recommend a screening plan for someone depending on their individual risk factors. For people with dense breasts, they may suggest a second form of imaging, such as:

  • MRI: This imaging technique uses a magnetic field and radio waves to form detailed images of the breast tissue.
  • 3D mammogram: Also called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), this type of mammography is more accurate for dense tissue. It takes two images of each breast and then creates images of thin slices of the tissue. This allows the radiologist to see hidden tumors or lumps in the tissue.
  • Ultrasound: This option uses high frequency sound waves to create images of the breast tissue. A handheld device or an automated scanner makes it possible to create a 3D image of the entire breast.

Scattered fibroglandular breast tissue is common. It is not cancer, and it does not usually pose any health issues. However, having breast lumps can make a person worry more about cancer.

A person who is familiar with their breasts and how they naturally change during the menstrual cycle can notice any unusual changes that may need attention. Following a doctor’s screening advice can ensure that healthcare professionals detect and address any abnormalities in a timely manner.

Scattered fibroglandular breast tissue is a noncancerous condition that can cause lumps in the breasts. It is not a disease, and it does not require treatment.

This type of tissue does not cause breast cancer, but it can make cancerous lumps harder to find. Although most breast lumps are not cancerous, a person should seek a doctor’s advice if they notice any differences in their breasts. The doctor may recommend further screening to rule out any serious issues.