About half of the women 40 and older have dense breasts, based on CDC statistics.
More than 297,700 women are expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year and about 43,700 will die from the disease, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society. With the rise of breast cancer diagnoses in women, US Food and Drug Administration's new regulations will require mammography facilities to notify patients about the density of their breasts, per NBC news.
The new rules will require mammogram providers nationwide to notify patients if they have dense breast tissue and recommend that they consult with a doctor about whether they need additional screening. This regulation is important as having dense breast tissues is an indicator of having a higher chance of getting breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Today’s action represents the agency’s broader commitment to support innovation to prevent, detect and treat cancer,” Dr. Hilary Marston, the FDA’s chief medical officer, said in a statement. Dr. Anne Hoyt, the co-medical director for breast imaging at UCLA, called it "a step in the right direction."
All U.S. women getting mammograms will soon receive information about their breast density, which can sometimes make cancer harder to spothttps://t.co/ns4Jb3eUej— NBC New York (@NBCNewYork) March 10, 2023
"Sometimes women that have breast cancers that are present, those breast cancers are not seen on the mammogram because they are hidden by breast density," she said. "The identification of dense breast tissue can be a marker of slightly greater risk of getting breast cancer, and it may need additional breast imaging," said Dr. Harold Burstein, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
NEWS! The FDA has announced a new national requirement for breast density reporting to both patients and referring health providers. A long haul for dense breast inform advocates. More: https://t.co/LOxnCcfM6q pic.twitter.com/aNrx5XJOig— JoAnn Pushkin (@JoAnnPushkin) March 9, 2023
About half of the women 40 and older have dense breasts, based on CDC statistics. Mammogram providers have been asked to implement the new standards within 18 months, according to the agency. Burstein said, “Just because you have dense breast tissue doesn’t mean you have breast cancer, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to get breast cancer.” He explained, “But what it might mean is that you need some extra imaging.”
As far as self-diagnosis is concerned, JoAnn Pushkin, executive director of New York-based DenseBreast-info, a website that educates the public about dense breasts, said women can't detect the condition on their own because it has "nothing to do with the way your breasts look or feel."
“It is the tissue composition of the breast,” she said. The only way to find out whether you have dense breasts is via a mammogram, which doctors generally recommend every one or two years for women starting in their 40s or 50s. Women with dense breasts are recommended to also get an ultrasound.
Until this regulation, thirty-eight states already required providers to give women information about breast density after a mammogram, but not all of them require providers to notify a woman if she herself has dense breasts. The FDA's new rules released on March 9th, essentially set a minimum amount of information mammogram providers will be required to tell women.
This is a welcome stop to ensure early diagnosis of breast cancer and improve possible outcomes of the treatment.
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | FatCamera