On February 15th, the federal government passed legislation that requires all mammography providers to inform patients and physicians about their breast density after they undergo a mammogram and explain the importance of that information. As a New York State resident, you will be pleased to know that alike legislation became law in 2013. In fact, we were the first state to require that women be informed if their mammogram demonstrates that their breast tissue is “dense.” These laws are critical to breast health because up to 50% of women have dense tissue of some degree
Most women may think of mammography as a one-scan-works best for all. As a woman with dense breast tissue, I learned that’s not always the case. When I when first received the news that I had dense breasts, my initial reaction was fear. However, my radiologist explained that breast density is perfectly normal and does not necessitate that I will get cancer. She explained that both cancer and dense tissue appear white on a mammogram and cancer is more likely to be missed in women with dense breasts. She described my dense breast tissue as clouds in the sky and breast cancers as white planes in flight. And when a plane flies through wispy clouds, you can still see the plane in the air, but when flies through thick clouds, it can be nearly impossible to detect. I was fortunate that my imaging provider Southtowns Radiology (full disclosure also my employer), offered the latest in breast imaging technology, particularly for women with breast density.
Simply put, not all mammography is created equal. Southtowns Radiology combines three of the latest technologies in breast imaging: VolparaDenisty, a computerized algorithm to measure breast density, Genius 3D Mammography the only FDA approved mammography system with proven superior dense breast performance and C-View, a software program that lessens radiation dosage up to 40 percent. Because of this technology my radiologist was able to see my breast tissue in greater detail and provide a more certain diagnosis.
Up until this recent action by the federal government, there was no consistency from state to state on what the laws require patients to be told about their breast density. According to JoAnn Pushkin, Executive Director of DenseBreast-info.org “Implementation of this national law will help to address this disparity, as all imaging facilities that perform mammography screening will be required to provide at least the level of information required by the FDA’s new reporting requirement.” Pushkin was instrumental in the passing of the 2013 NYS breast density law.
The federal law, like the NYS law, mandates that mammography reports and summaries received by patients and their providers include appropriate information about breast density. The information must include, at a minimum:
- The effect of breast density in masking the presence of breast cancer on a mammogram
- The qualitative assessment of breast density by the provider who interprets the mammogram
- A reminder to patients that individuals with dense breast tissue should talk with their providers if they have any questions or concerns about their summary.
One thing is for certain, I am grateful to be a both a NYS resident and a patient of Southtowns Radiology both of whom are leaders in breast health!