Reporting Dense Breasts Not Yet Mandatory Nation-Wide
Legislators introduced the Breast Density and Mammography Reporting Act to a congressional committee on July 17, 2014. The bill would require physicians nation-wide to inform patients if they have dense breasts to better serve their preventative and diagnostic healthcare needs.
When a woman receives normal results on a mammogram that does not necessarily mean she has a clean bill of health. Women with dense breasts may have a normal mammogram but, when tested with an ultrasound, learn they have cancer.
Currently, healthcare providers in only 14 states are required to share a medical report or summary that shows breast density with the patient, even though they are aware of it and take that into consideration during their assessment of mammogram results.
If such reporting was mandatory, patients would be able to have the additional screenings necessary to ensure that they are getting the proper diagnosis and care.
According to Women’s Health Magazine, former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden knows too well the dangers of dense breasts and confusing screening results. The journalist received an all-clear result after a mammogram but knew to also have an ultrasound because she had dense breasts. The ultrasound found aggressive stage ll cancer that would have gone undetected had she not known to get the additional screening.
The American Cancer Society finds breast density to be a major cause of misleading mammograms. Up to half of cancer in dense breasts goes undetected in mammograms.
The bill would make reporting dense breast tissue a federal standard in healthcare. It would also point the federal government in the direction of researching the cost-effectiveness, reimbursement models and feasibility of additional screening options to encourage better early detection tools.
Lunden was able to receive the correct diagnosis because she knew that she had dense breasts. The bill will facilitate more situations like hers, where the patient has the knowledge to be better able to make informed decisions about their healthcare.