On April 10, just before a session on developing breast density notification programs at the 2013 spring meeting of AHRA: The Association for Medical Imaging Management, held at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, AHRA announced its endorsement of Are You Dense Advocacy Inc, a group that seeks to standardize communication between imaging organizations and women with dense breast tissue. Further goals of the group include supporting breast density notification laws and expanding insurance coverage screening legislation.
Currently, six states mandate breast density notification, but do so using inconsistent wording, notes Bonnie Rush, RT, president of San Diego-based Breast Imaging Specialists. “Differing laws are not in anyone’s best interest,” she says. Rush adds that while the legal obligation of imaging centers ends with notification, they would be better served by educating their patients and referring physicians about what dense breast tissue means in terms of cancer risk and what follow-up imaging procedures are recommended.
“Most women are unaware of the fact that they have dense breasts, as well as the potential risk factors associated with their situation,” Luann Culbreth, RT, AHRA Past President, said in a press release. “By ensuring there is a process for breast density notification, as well as insurance to cover appropriate screenings, our members who facilitate screening mammography can play a significant role in identifying cancers in early stages and ultimately save lives.”
Indeed, Rush notes, many of these supplementary screening techniques—which can include digital breast tomosynthesis, breast MRI or whole breast ultrasound—are not currently reimbursed by payors. “Our problem is we can’t get reimbursed for any of these wonderful things,” Rush says. “We need to talk to our payors about how early detection is going to save them money down the line.”
Rush urges members of the AHRA to take a cue from the endorsement and become advocates for dense breast notification in their own organizations and communities. “The crystal ball shows us that individualized risk assessment and screening is in our future,” she says. “The intervals and types of exams we do will be tailored to patients’ specific risk factors.”