California’s Breast Density Notification Law Goes Into Effect
On Monday, a new state law took effect that requires physicians to notify women if they have dense breast tissue, which could be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, KQED's "State of Health" reports (Aliferis, "State of Health," KQED, 3/29).
About the New Law
In September 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a bill (SB 1538) -- by former Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) -- that requires that women who receive mammograms be informed if they have dense breast tissue.
The law also requires that those women be informed about how the density of their breast tissue can affect mammogram results and cancer risk (California Healthline, 9/24/12).
Federal law already mandates that health care providers report mammogram screening results to patients in writing. In California, those letters now must include an extra paragraph if women have dense breast tissue (Sisson, U-T San Diego, 3/31).
Such notices will encourage women to decide on a course of action with their physician ("State of Health," KQED, 3/29).
California is the fifth state in the country to require dense breast tissue notificationsÂ (U-T San Diego, 3/31).
Some California physicians have said the measure could create unnecessary anxiety for women (California Healthline, 5/31/12).
In addition, some doctors have expressed concern that women might be afraid to receive their breast tissue density information by mail.
Other physicians have noted that follow-up scans with ultrasound technology are not yet standardized and that most health plans do not cover such care.
Reaction to the Concerns
Nancy Cappello -- founder of Are You Dense, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for breast tissue density notification laws -- said the law is "really about informed consent that a woman understands the potential risks of her own situation."
She said, "Women want to have this information, and we are big enough and bold enough not to panic" (U-T San Diego, 3/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.