Tennessee Passes New Law Regarding Mammograms

Starting July 1, 2014, Tennessee will enact a new law that may help reduce the number of undiagnosed breast cancer cases. The law, known as the "Breast Density Law", is expected to help doctors more effectively provide awareness to patients if they require additional testing.

The impetus for the law comes from the ways in which a mammogram's accuracy can be affected by the varying density of a woman's breasts. Basically, all women's breasts contain some amount of fat tissue and some amount of glandular tissue, more critical to the lactation process. Fat tissue is far less dense than the glandular tissue.If your breast composition is more than 50 percent glandular tissue, then you are considered to have dense breasts. As Dr. Jessie Varnell​,  a physician at the Marie Ellen Locher Breast Center explains, women who have dense breasts can receive less accurate results from a traditional mammogram than those with less dense breasts.

"It makes it a little harder to look at your mammogram," Varnell told NBC Chattanooga affiliate WRCB. "If you are looking at a stream that's clear you can see something easily, but if you have muddy water it could be harder to find something in there that's not supposed to be there like a malignancy or cancer."

The new law requires doctors conducting mammograms to inform women of their breast density, and to recommend alternative or additional screening options if they feel those methods might offer a clearer insight.

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