In a move that has irked medical groups and delighted patient advocates, states have begun passing laws requiring clinics that perform mammograms to tell patients whether they have dense breast tissue. Women who have dense tissue must, under those laws, also be told that it can hide tumors on a mammogram, that it may increase the risk of breast cancer and that they should ask their doctors if they need additional screening tests, like ultrasound or M.R.I. scans.
The issue is pitting angry patients against the medical establishment. Advocates say women have a right to know, but medical groups argue that the significance of tissue density is uncertain and that reporting it may panic women and lead to an avalanche of needless screening tests and biopsies.
Laws requiring disclosure have been passed in Connecticut, Texas and Virginia, and most recently in California and New York, where they will take effect next year. A bill calling for a federal law has been introduced in the House. Though some doctors favor the laws, others resent them, and professional societies of radiologists, gynecologists and cancer experts have raised medical concerns.
The medical groups say telling a woman she has dense breasts may not help her and might even do harm by propelling her into unnecessary tests and treatment. The groups argue that identifying dense breast tissue is subjective, and so two doctors reading the same mammogram may rate the tissue differently. And information about density may confuse women, scare some needlessly and give others a false sense of security, the groups say. (NY Times)