New Law About Breast Cancer Screening

Do you know of the new law about breast cancer screening?

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women. This year an estimated 226,870 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 39,510 will die from the disease.
Dense breasts have a high amount of connective and glandular tissue (fibroglandular tissue) compared with less-dense breasts, which have a high amount of fatty tissue. A physician determines if a woman has dense breast tissue with a mammography exam. Mammography is a low-dose X-ray imaging method of the breast

The breast cancer detection bill (are you dense?)
This bill,Senate Bill 1538, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and signed in California in September 2012 by Governor Brown
California is the fifth state with a breast density notification law (following Connecticut, Texas, Virginia, and New York). Legislation is also under consideration in a some other states and in Congress.

The purpose of the bill is to improve breast cancer detection in women with dense breast tissue.
If you have a mammogram that shows you have dense breast tissue, you will have to be informed
1) of this dense breast tissue finding
2) that dense breast tissue can make it harder to interpret the results of your mammogram
3) that it is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer;
4)that a range of screening options are available,including the newly approved breast ultrasound device

Roughly 40 out of every 100 women who have mammograms have dense breast tissue. Because dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram, and cancer also appears white,it can be difficult to see the cancer. As a result, dense breast tissue may obscure smaller tumors, potentially delaying detection of breast cancer. A January 2011 study by the Mayo Clinic found that in women with dense breast tissue, 75 percent of cancer is missed by mammography alone.These women have an increased risk of breast cancer, with detection usually at a more advanced and difficult to treat stage.

Two separate studies have shown a 100 percent increase in breast cancer detection rates in women with dense breast tissue who had additional screenings.

Simitian said. “This is about a patient’s right to know. Patients with dense breast tissue need to know that it can hide a cancer, and that additional screening options are available. Early detection is the key.”

Amy Colton, a Santa Cruz resident, registered nurse and cancer survivor, suggested the idea for the bill in 2011 in Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be A Law” contest. Colton was never informed of her breast density during years of routine mammograms, and only discovered that she had dense breasts after completing her treatment for breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that one in eight women will develop breast cancer. The risk for women with extremely dense breast tissue is five times greater than the risk for women with low breast density. Yet the overwhelming majority of women are unaware of their own breast density.

The law will take effect April 1, 2013.

For more about SB 1538, visit For more information about dense breast tissue, visit

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved in September 2012 the first ultrasound device for use in combination with a standard mammography in women with dense breast tissue who have a negative mammogram and no symptoms of breast cancer. Ultrasound imaging has been shown to be capable of detecting small masses in dense breasts. During an ultrasound exam, a device called a transducer directs high-frequency sounds waves at the portion of the body being examined. Software analyzes the differences in how the sound waves are reflected off different tissues and back to the transducer to create an image a physician can review for abnormalities.

The specially shaped transducer of the somo-v Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS) can automatically scan the entire breast in about one minute to produce several images for review. The somo-v ABUS is approved for use in women who have not had previous clinical breast intervention, such as a surgery or biopsy, since this might alter the appearance of breast tissue in an ultrasound image

The somo-v ABUS is marketed by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based U-Systems Inc.

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