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Mammograms May Not Be the Best Test For Women With Dense Breasts


Last month, Caryn Hoadley received an unexpected letter after a routine mammogram. It said her mammogram was clean but that she has dense breast tissue, which has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer and could make her mammogram harder to read. According to The Daily Democrat Hoadley said of the letter  “What do I do with that information?”

I honestly don’t know what to think about the letter (…) What do I do with that information?

Millions of women such as Hoadley may be wondering the same thing. Twenty-one states, including California, have passed laws requiring health facilities to notify women when they have dense breasts. Eleven other states are considering similar laws, and a nationwide version has been introduced in Congress.

The laws have been hailed by advocates as empowering women to take charge of their own health. About 40 percent of women have dense or extremely dense breast tissue, which can obscure cancer that might otherwise be detected on a mammogram. Dense breasts have more glandular and fibrous tissue, which block the X-rays used in mammograms more than fatty tissue does.

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. A traditional screening mammogram typically takes X-rays of each breast from two different angles. Cancer in a dense breast can be hard to see on a mammogram because a tumor or mass can blend into the tissue. Insurance covers screening mammograms as part of required preventative care, but often does not cover the cost of additional or enhanced screenings based solely on breast density.

According to the NWAOnline Terri Mallioux, one of the 40 percent of U.S. women the National Cancer Institute estimates have dense breast tissue, decided to pay to have a whole-breast ultrasound at the Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas with a machine called SonoCine and said of the test in a recent interview “It was the best $275 I’ve ever spent.”

It was the best $275 I’ve ever spent (…) I’m living proof that additional screening makes a difference (…) I took my diagnosis as a sign I need to educate people.

In other breast cancer news here at Immortal, read about a recent study that says breast cancer cases to rise by 50 percent by 2030.

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