If a Patient Has Breast Density Questions, Do You Have Answers?

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By JoAnn Pushkin

Over 70% of American women now receive information from their breast imaging facility that they may have questions about. When the phone rings at your facility, is your center density-conversation ready?

Thirty-one states now have laws on the books requiring some level of breast density notification to women, but the laws vary by state. State required notification language can run the gamut from supplying only general information about breast density (If your mammogram demonstrates that you have dense breast tissue…), to a notification of density (Your mammogram shows your breast tissue is dense…), to supplying the patient’s actual density category (…..your breast density category is heterogeneously dense). Insurance laws for supplemental screening also vary from state to state and may seem like a moving target for coverage.

My own cancer was missed an estimated 5 years in a row hidden behind dense tissue and was the inspiration for New York’s notification law. However, soon after the law went into effect in 2013, I began to hear from women and healthcare providers uncertain as to what the notification meant: Do I still need a mammogram? Is breast density a diagnosis? Is breast density a greater risk factor than having a BRCA mutation? Why does the mammogram report say “normal” if my tissue is dense?

Everyone had questions and there was no single source for answers.

While it’s clear that patient notification of breast density may result in new conversations between the patient and healthcare provider about the implications of dense tissue, the challenge is preparing for those conversations. What questions are likely to be asked, is your staff equipped to answer them, and what medically sourced resources are available to assist? The educational website DenseBreast-info.org, was developed and launched to fill this void. The collaborative effort of breast imaging experts and medical reviewers, the website contains separate data tracks and content specific for both patients and healthcare providers. It is a free, comprehensive resource for participants from every side of a “density” conversation.

To learn more about having these discussions with your patients, join me at the 2017 AHRA Annual Meeting on Wednesday morning, July 12 at 8:30am (bright and early – bring coffee!) for my session “Breast Density: Why it Matters, Inform/Insurance Laws and Educational Tools.”

JoAnn Pushkin is the executive director of DenseBreast-info, Inc. She can be reached at jpushkin@dense-info.org.

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