Brown Says 'No' to Breast Density Notification

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In a setback for the breast density awareness movement, California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have required women whose mammograms revealed dense breast tissue to be informed of this fact.
Senate Bill 791 (formerly SB 173) would also have mandated that women with dense breast tissue be advised that such tissue can conceal abnormalities on a mammogram, and that they might wish to discuss additional screening with their doctors.

In rejecting the proposed law, Brown said that despite his support for the concept of offering patients more information about their health, the wording of SB 791 “went too far” by advising that additional screening might be beneficial. "If the state must mandate a notice about breast density -- and I am not certain it should -- such a notice must be more carefully crafted, with words that educate more than they prescribe," he asserts.

Under the bill, radiologists would have been required to incorporate two sentences into the letter they must send to patients after a mammogram, as already required by the federal Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA): “Because your mammogram demonstrates that you have dense breast tissue, which could hide small abnormalities, you might benefit from supplementary screening tests, depending on your individual risk factors. A report of your mammography results, which contains information about your breast density, has been sent to your physician's office and you should contact your physician if you have any questions or concerns about this notice.”

In June, the California Medical Association (CMA) released a statement about the pending bill, noting that while the intent of the legislation was to give women more power and control over their health by providing them with more information, it was “vague” and would impose undue cost burdens on the patients.

Meanwhile, proponents of the legislation deem the opposition of organized medicine among factors behind Brown's veto."The bill received relentless opposition from medical organizations who fought hard to kill the bill, and were successful in lobbying the governor to use his veto power to defeat it," states Nancy Cappello, PhD, founder of Are You Dense, an organization that urges women to be informed about dense breast tissue and how it affects the early detection of breast cancer.

Are You Dense intends to move forward despite the veto. A federal bill (HR 3102) was introduced in Congress last week, while four states -- Kansas, Ohio, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania -- have breast density notification legislative efforts on their lists for 2012.