Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation that is designed to help improve breast cancer detection and prevention by requiring mammography services to inform patients if dense breast tissue is found during an exam.
"Early detection can save lives and this new law will give women who may be at a higher risk for breast cancer the information they need to consult with their physician about follow-up screening and other preventive measures," Governor Cuomo said. "I commend the bill sponsors for their work on this important legislation."
Dense breast tissue can make it harder to find cancer on a mammogram and may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The new law requires mammography providers to include the following notification in the summary of the mammography report provided to patients who are found to have dense tissue: "Your mammogram shows that your breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue is very common and is not abnormal. However, dense breast tissue can make it harder to find cancer on a mammogram and may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. This information about the result of your mammogram is given to you to raise your awareness. Use this information to talk to your doctor about your own risks for breast cancer. At that time, ask your doctor if more screening tests might be useful, based on your risk. A report of your results was sent to your physician."
Senator John J. Flanagan said, "Simply put, this legislation is about saving lives. Supplied with information about their own breast density, women will now be empowered to discuss additional screening options with their physicians. Many women are unaware that 'breast density' is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and that dense breast tissue can make it difficult to detect tumors by mammography alone. With the approval of this new law today, women will have better health care information to pursue other screening options to find cancers early; when they are most treatable and survivable. I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing the bill into law, and I thank JoAnn Pushkin for her tireless efforts in advocating on this critically important issue and in helping to make this the most comprehensive breast density inform law in the country."
Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee said, "I thank the courageous advocates who have worked tirelessly to get this law passed. Now those with dense breast tissue, which can mask tumors, will be able to get the information needed to determine with their physicians whether further screening is recommended. My hope is that this law will lead to earlier detection and save lives."
Currently, there are no requirements in law for patients to be alerted to breast density.
Dense breast tissue is known to be one of the leading risk factors for breast cancer in women. Mammograms have been known to fail to detect about tumors present in dense breast tissue as the tissue can obscure the tumors. Missed cancers, growing undetected until at a later stage, are less treatable, least survivable and most expensive to treat. Women should be encouraged to discuss with their physicians all potential risk factors, including but not limited to tissue density, age, family history of breast cancer, obesity, and alcohol consumption.
The law takes effect in 180 days.