Cancer

What Does the New Breast Density Law Mean for Me?

Jacqui Appel, Manager of Breast Imaging Services at TriHealth, explains what you need to know about the new breast density notification law.

Breast density: What’s the big deal? Actually, as of March 2015, if you live in Ohio and your mammography screening reveals you have dense breast tissue, your provider is legally obligated to tell you. That’s right, it’s the law.

Ohio is the 20th state to pass the breast density notification law, meant to educate women that “dense breast tissue can make mammograms very difficult to read. There are other screening options available for these women that might be better than traditional 2D mammography,” explains Jacqui Appel, Manager of Breast Imaging Services at TriHealth.

This notification consists of a short paragraph that states: "[T]his information is not provided to cause undue concern; rather, it is to raise your awareness and promote discussion with your health care provider regarding the presence of dense breast tissue in addition to other risk factors."

Breast Density: What’s the Problem?

Jacqui-Appel-breast-imaging

Dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram and lumps – both benign and cancerous – also appear white, which means mammograms can be less accurate for women with dense breasts.

Nearly 50 percent of women have dense breast tissue, which is determined by the radiologist who reads your mammogram. If your follow-up letter notes you have dense breasts, you will fall into either of the following categories:

  • Heterogeneously dense (more than half of the tissue in the breast is dense)
  • Extremely dense (more than 75 percent of the tissue is dense)

How Does Breast Density Affect Breast Cancer Risk?

“Breast density alone does not mean you’re going to get breast cancer," Appel points out. "But, if you have dense breasts and you also have a family history or have had – previously – an atypical biopsy, those different factors are going to put you at an increased risk.”

If you have no other risk factors, your best option may be to have a 3D mammography, which generates a series of thin, high-resolution images, at your next screening mammogram.

On the other hand, if you have extremely dense breast tissue, your provider may recommend a whole breast ultrasound and breast MRI. However, these tests are more sensitive and can identify things that are not cancer, leading to biopsies and other testing that may not be necessary.

These additional tests can also be expensive and “just dense breasts alone do not warrant supplementary imaging,” Appel explains. But, if you have dense breasts and other breast cancer risk factors, you may be able to get supplementary imaging approved by your insurance provider. Factors that put you at an increased risk include:

  • Family history of the disease
  • Previous chest radiation treatment for cancer
  • Previous breast biopsies that show you are high risk

You can determine your risk factors by consulting with your physician, completing a risk assessment or speaking with one of our counselors at the Breast Center.

  • Call 513 862 5160 for a risk assessment with one of our counselors.
Tags Cancer , Women's Health

Last Updated: April 07, 2015