Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed significant legislation to help improve breast cancer detection in New York State. The breast cancer detection legislation will require mammography services to inform patients if dense breast tissue is found during an exam.
Currently, there are no requirements for patients to be alerted to breast density. The new law, which will take effect in January, 2013, mandates the following notification be provided to patients: “Your mammogram shows that your breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue is very common and is not abnormal. However, dense breast tissue can make it harder to find cancer on a mammogram and may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. This information about the result of your mammogram is given to you to raise your awareness. Use this information to talk to your doctor about your own risks for breast cancer. At that time, ask your doctor if more screening tests might be useful, based on your risk. A report of your results was sent to your physician.”
Sheldon Marc Feldman MD, Chief, Division of Breast Surgery, NewYork Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center says this bill is very important in helping to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue and has the potential to save lives. He adds, “I hope every other state passes such legislation.”
Mammograms have been known to fail to detect about tumors present in dense breast tissue as the tissue can obscure the tumors. Missed cancers, growing undetected until at a later stage, are less treatable, least survivable and most expensive to treat. Dr. Feldman encourages patients to discuss all potential risk factors, including tissue density, with their physicians.