Breast Density

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California’s Breast Density Notification Law Goes Into Effect

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

As women are well aware, the purpose of a mammogram is to screen for cancer. What many women don’t know is that as part of the screening, radiologists also assess the level of density in a woman’s breast tissue.

Starting Monday, a new California law will require that doctors notify women if their breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue makes it harder to read mammograms and is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Former state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced the law last year. It grew out of his concern that while doctors were aware of a patient’s breast density, the patient herself was not, preventing women from talking with their doctors about how they might want to address their potential increased risk. He wanted to change that.

“The fundamental premise of the legislation,” he said in a recent call with reporters, “is that absent this information, these conversations weren’t going to take place.”

Some background: breast tissue is graded from 1 (not dense) to 4 (extremely dense). The law requires that women graded either a 3 or a 4 be notified.

Here’s the specific notification required by the law:

Your mammogram shows that your breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue is common and is not abnormal. However, dense breast tissue can make it harder to evaluate the Continue reading