Breast Density Information to Become a Regular Part of Mammogram Results, the FDA Announces

A radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester spoke with USA Today about the new requirement to inform patients if they have dense breast tissue, a risk factor for breast cancer.

People receiving their mammograms will now be notified of their breast density, according to new requirements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Dr. Lauren Friedlander, a radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester, spoke with USA Today what to know about the updates and why they are important.

“In addition to receiving a notification that their results are benign, or negative, patients will receive notification that they have dense breast tissue or that they do not have dense breast tissue,” says Dr. Friedlander, who is also an associate professor of radiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. In the United States, 38 states have passed laws requiring mammogram centers to tell women their breast density status. States that have not will have 18 months to implement the new requirements.

Dr. Lauren Friedlander

Because dense breast tissue can make it difficult to detect breast cancer on mammograms, the FDA is advising people to speak with their medical provider once they are informed of their status. Around half of women 40 years or older have dense breast tissue, which is also a risk factor for getting breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the new updates from the FDA, “there’s language that lets patients know that women who do have dense breast tissue may benefit from additional screening exams [such as ultrasounds or MRIs],” says Dr. Friedlander. “That’s important because it really promotes a conversation between a patient and her physician about how best to optimize early cancer detection.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the U.S., and it is about 30% of all new female cancers each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Overall, there is a one in eight chance that a woman will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

Mammograms continue to be the best tool for breast cancer screening and detection,” adds Dr. Friedlander. “It is the mainstay of breast cancer screening, the only test that we have that has a proven mortality benefit that’s been studied for many, many years.”

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