April 1, 2014 is “Are You Dense?” Day in Santa Clara County
On March 11, 2014, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to recognize and declare April 1, 2014 as “Are You Dense?” Day in Santa Clara County.
As of April 1, 2013, California law requires that women with dense breast tissue be informed of that fact when they receive the results of a mammogram. The goal of the law is to inform patients that dense breast tissue can make it harder to evaluate the results of a mammogram and may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The law is also designed to encourage a conversation between patients and doctors about appropriate screening options.
WHAT IS DENSE BREAST TISSUE?
Breast tissue is composed of two types: fatty (nondense) tissue and connective (dense) tissue. The ratio of fatty to connective tissue differs among all women.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF DENSE BREAST TISSUE?
Dense breast tissue can impede the ability of a mammogram to detect abnormalities or cancer. When a woman gets a mammogram, the fatty tissue appears dark and the dense tissue appears white. Tumors are also dense tissue and appear white. This can make it more difficult to detect a tumor in dense breasts because it looks similar to the area around it. Dense breast tissue also is an independent risk factor for the development of breast cancer.
HOW DO I DETERMINE IF I HAVE DENSE BREAST TISSUE?
Schedule a mammogram. A radiologist can determine your breast density by examining the x-rays. Radiologists use a grading scale that breaks density levels into four categories, ranging from “almost entirely fatty” to “extremely dense tissue present.” Your radiologist or physician can explain the mammography results to you.
WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE DENSE BREAST TISSUE?
Talk with your doctor about your individual risk factors for breast cancer, such as breast density, age, family history and your own health history. You may decide that you would benefit from supplementary screening tests. You should also schedule a yearly breast exam with your doctor and continue to conduct your own monthly breast exams.
WHY HAVEN’T I HEARD OF BREAST DENSITY BEFORE NOW?
While federal law requires radiologists to send a report to your referring physician that contains your breast density, only recently did a state law go into effect requiring that that same information be sent directly to the patient.
HELPFUL ONLINE RESOURCES: