CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ginny Kunik got a letter from Charlotte Radiology that she wasn t expecting. It read in part, Your mammogram indicates that you may have dense breast tissue. For Kunik, and other women in North Carolina who are now getting the same letter, it s a warning: talk to your doctor and advocate for yourself.

Dense breast tissue isn t anything strange to radiologists. They see it all the time. Four out of 10 women have dense breasts tissue, and for the first time in North Carolina, this year, by law, women who get a mammogram are being told if their breasts are dense. It's called the Breat Den

Mammography is the only way to detect dense breast tissue. Unlike fatty breast tissue, which appears grey on a mammogram, dense breast tissue shows up white. It s harder for radiologists to spot a tumor in dense breast tissue because tumors and cancer cells also appear white on a mammogram.

You re trying to find an abnormal snow flake in a snow storm, said Christie Chaconas of Charlotte Radiology. It s harder to detect breast cancer in dense breast tissue, she said.

Kunik isn t entirely surprised by her diagnosis. Her sister had dense breast tissue too.

In fact, for my sister, she was misdiagnosed as cancer free after her mammogram when she probably had cancer.

Doctors say the new law should not frighten women who are advised they have dense tissue. Women with dense tissue are not more likely to get breast cancer -- it is simply harder at times to detect. Often, ultrasound is used as a follow up to mammography.

Read or Share this story: