California Legislature Passes'Dense Breast Tissue Notification' Bill

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A bill that requires health care providers to inform women when they are found to have dense breast tissue has been passed by the California State Legislature, reports sponsoring Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). Known as Senate Bill 791 and formerly Senate Bill 173, it is being submitted to Governor Jerry Brown for consideration.

Under the bill, radiologists must include two additional sentences in the federally required letter sent to patients after a mammogram. They are, “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.”

Simitian says the bill provides patients with the information they need to make informed decisions about their health and is also cost-effective because treating cancer in its early stages is far less costly than treating than advanced cancer. It was suggested to Simitian by Amy Colton of Soquel, California, who was never told about the density of her breast tissue during years of routine mammograms and discovered this fact only after completing treatment for breast cancer, which her mammograms had failed to detect over a period of several years.

Similar legislation has already been passed in Connecticut and Texas. Additionally, Simitian notes, Congress and the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and Florida all have related legislation pending.