Measure Would Require Women To Be Told of Breast Tissue Condition
Lawmakers are weighing a bill (SB 173), by Sen. Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto), that would require physicians to tell women if they have a condition known as extremely dense breast tissue that could prevent mammograms from detecting cancer cells, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
The bill has been approved by the Senate but stalled last month in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Dense breast tissue appears light on X-ray mammogram images, as do tumors.
NIH has said that extremely dense breast tissue can be one of the strongest risk factors for cancer.
If SB 173 passes, California would be the third state -- after Connecticut and Texas -- to require physicians to notify women that they have the dense breast tissue condition.
Debate Over Measure
Debate on the bill has centered on whether too much medical information can cause undue fear and increase costs for women. Ultrasounds can cost $300 and MRIs can cost $1,700 per screening.
Physicians argue that they are not opposed to providing information about dense tissue to women but that they want to limit such information to high-risk women, including those with a family history of breast cancer or a prior precancerous change in a breast.
Ruth Hoskins -- chair of the Council on Legislation for the California Medical Association -- said every woman with the condition would seek more sophisticated screenings. Hoskins added that securing prior authorization from insurers for those screenings often can be difficult.
Hoskins noted that low reimbursements from public insurance plans might dissuade physicians from providing expensive tests for women who are not privately insured.
Simitian said that telling "a patient she has no right to know information already held by the radiologist and physician is indefensible" (Harmon, San Jose Mercury News, 9/6).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.