It is common knowledge that breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women. Early and accurate diagnosis can greatly increase survival rates, but that process can be extremely difficult when women have dense breasts, which is why several states have established legislation mandating the inclusion of breast density findings in notification letters sent to women after mammogram exams.
This legislation has already been adopted in California, Connecticut, New York, Texas, and Virginia, with legislation pending in a dozen other states, including Florida. There is also a federal bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives which could eventually make this legislation a federal mandate.
Current state legislation is twofold. First, breast density information is included on notification letters sent to women post mammogram because dense breast tissue can hide small malignancies. In addition, notification letters will also include follow up screening options such as breast ultrasound, breast MRI, or tomosynthesis which will discussed among the female and the physician. The second piece of this legislation requires insurance companies to provide additional coverage for these additional screening options for women with dense breasts.
Update on Breast Density Notification in Florida
Florida is one of the states that has legislation pending regarding breast density notification. Florida previously had a bill regarding breast density notification pending in the state government, however, the wording of the bill was troublesome to the medical community and, therefore, the bill lost momentum and eventually died without being passed. However, with legislation again pending in Florida state government and a federal bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, the women of Florida could soon reap the benefits of breast density notification.
Current Options for Women in South Florida
There is concern among women in South Florida that they may have an undetected mass in their breast, and no legislation to mandate follow-up. Dr. Monica Yepes, a breast radiologist at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, has some insights for females with dense breasts that could ease the anxiety until the legislation passes. Dr. Yepes states that interaction between the patient and physician is a critical step in determining which method of follow up screening is best for each patient. For a patient with a family history of breast cancer or who has had a history of being exposed to radiation, a breast MRI may be the choice; however, if a patient has dense breasts with no previous history, a breast ultrasound may be the choice.
Current studies show that a breast ultrasound helps diagnose 3 to 4 additional breast cancers per 1,000 women screened. Dr. Yepes states that it can be a difficult to determine which course of action may be required, but, ultimately, there is no need for legislation if patients and physicians maintain an open dialogue.