Breast density patient notification

Oct. Your Health Matters

Governor Snyder signed an act into law at the start of 2015 that's impacting patients and the protocol involving their mammograms. The law went into effect in June. It requires doctors to inform women if their mammograms show dense breast tissue.

Pam Masiewicz not only has dense breast tissue but is also a radiology technologist at Munson Medical Center who sees these types of situations on a daily basis. Once she found out she herself has dense breast tissue, she received a pink notification in the mail. The card is sent out to patients once their mammogram detects the dense tissue.

"The legislation requires us to notify women if they have any dense breast tissue. It doesn't require us to do anything more than what we used to do as far as interpretation of the images. We always included the beast density but we now have to notify the individual," says Dr. Charles Weitz the breast imaging director for Munson.

Dr. Weitz says almost half of the population of women in the United States have dense breast tissue.

"This is a normal finding. The legislation is trying to address the danger the breast tissue creates with the sensitivity of the mammogram diminishes so sometimes the dense breast tissue can mask or hide breast cancer," says Dr. Weitz.

Dr. Weitz says giving the patients information both in writing and verbally is a way to educate them on further tests. However, he says there are pros and cons to the new law.

"The upside is to empower women to be able to know that their breast tissue is dense and that mammograms may be less sensitive and to additional studies. The downside is the more tests we do the more false alarms there's going to be, the more things we might see that we need to biopsy but might not be cancer," says Dr. Weitz.

For Pam Masiewicz she says it's a way to stay proactive with her health.

"We research things all the time. We go out to buy a car. You know what you want in a car, but so many times people don't really research their own health or other things that can be done. Having that knowledge you know what questions to ask the doctor and they're able to direct you to the right tests," says Masiewicz.

Dr. Weitz says mammograms in general are still effective tools to detect any breast abnormalities.The new law simply gives patients the opportunity for additional tests if they have dense breast tissue.

The American Cancer Society recommends patients go for a yearly mammogram starting at the age of 40. Anything before 40 would be for someone with a family history of breast cancer or genetic mutation.

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