Recently, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett signed the Breast Density Screening Notification Act into law in an effort to improve breast cancer detection in women with dense breast tissue.
Dense breast tissue can make it harder to find cancer on a screening mammogram. As you may know, dense breast tissue is a common finding and is not abnormal. In fact, statistics show that approximately 40 percent of women could have dense or highly dense breasts.
While it has been our practice to provide information on a patient’s breast density in the radiology report sent to you, it has been left up to each patient’s doctor to then share the information with the patient.
The new law, which became effective January 31, 2014, requires that we directly notify your patients about their breast density, along with a generic explanation regarding breast density so that a woman may discuss, along with her physician, additional breast screening if appropriate.
An annual screening mammogram still remains one of the best things a woman can do to find breast cancer earlier. The American Cancer Society, The American College of Radiology, the Society of Breast Imaging and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still recommend that all women in good health have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. Women at high risk may benefit from starting earlier.
St. Luke’s will continue to offer breast MRI as it remains the most sensitive adjunct to mammography for the dense breast and high risk patient. In addition, a more accessible screening alternative, breast ultrasound is available, and breast tomosynthesis (3-D mammograms) will be available in the near future. Our breast imaging physicians and nurses are developing more personalized screening strategies for each patient based on their breast density and risk factors.
The American College of Radiology web site http://www.breastdensity.info/index.html provides excellent information on breast screening and breast density and may help to answer questions you or your patients may have. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at 484 526-7230 with any questions or concerns.
Joseph Russo, MD
Section Chief of Women’s Imaging
St. Luke’s University Health Network