State Senator Joe Simitian’s (D-Palo Alto) bill, which is aimed at increasing breast cancer detection, passed the California State Senate last week on a vote of 34 to five.
Senate Bill 173 requires that following a mammogram, individuals with dense breast tissue be informed that:
• They have dense breast tissue;
• That dense breast tissue can obscure abnormalities (i.e., cancer) on a mammogram; and
• They may wish to discuss the potential value of additional screening(s) with their doctors.
“It’s so important that a patient be told they have dense breast tissue, and that the dense breast tissue may limit the ability of the mammogram to spot a problem. When it comes to your health,” said Simitian, “ignorance is not bliss. What you don’t know can hurt you.”
“This bill is about giving patients the information they need to make informed decisions about their own bodies and their own health,” continued Simitian. “Senate Bill 173 will also save money, because treating cancer in its early stages is far less expensive than battling advanced cancer.”
The National Cancer Institute estimates that one in eight women will develop breast cancer. The risk for women with dense breast tissue, more than half of all women, is five times greater, yet the overwhelming majority of women are unaware of their own breast density.
The measure is supported by Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the California Nurses Association, the Breast Cancer Fund, the California Association of Health Underwriters and the California Communities United Institute. Both the California Medical Association and the California Radiological Society are opposed.
Similar legislation has already passed in the state of Connecticut. Congress and the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Florida and Texas all have related legislation pending.