Breast density reporting laws increase awareness, patient-physician conversations, supplemental screenings

Breast density reporting laws in the US increase breast density awareness and ignite conversations between women and their physicians about additional screening, according to research published online Oct. 1 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.  

Additionally, study results found that 90 percent of women surveyed — regardless of their state’s breast density law status — would prefer to know their breast tissue type than not know and, furthermore, its impact on breast cancer screening and diagnosis.  

"In states without legislation, women may not automatically receive density information but should be aware that it is generally available in the mammography report,” said Dana Smetherman, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Commission, in a prepared statement.“This information is helpful for both radiologists and referring providers as they discuss density status with their patients.”  

For the study, Are You Dense, Inc. and Are You Dense Advocacy, Inc. commissioned a survey in February 2018 to 1,500 U.S. women in all 50 states who were between 40 and 74 years old and who had a mammogram within the last two years.  

In February 2018, 31 states had breast density laws and 18 did not. North Dakota had a law that expired and was excluded from the density law versus no-law group comparison, according to the researchers.  

The aim of the survey was to determine whether the women knew about their dense breast tissue, its masking of and risk for breast cancer, learning preferences about their dense breast tissue status after having a mammogram and whether they had follow-up conversations with physicians about supplemental screenings when mammograms identified abnormalities. 

Survey results were compared across five groups of 300 participants each — Connecticut (the first state require that all women undergoing screening receive sense breast tissue information); everyone, no density (five states where all women undergoing screening receive dense breast tissue information; only dense (16 states where only women with dense breasts receive information about dense breast tissue); everyone, dense breast (nine states where all women undergoing screening receive information about their own density category); no-law group (19 states with no density reporting law of February 2018) — based on law details and between women residing in states with laws versus without laws, according to the researchers.  

"These study results confirm that women who participate in mammography screening want this important breast health information, and that the mammogram results letter leads to further conversations between them and their physicians about breast screening," said lead study author Nancy Cappello, PhD, founder of Are You Dense, Inc. and Are You Dense Advocacy, Inc., in a prepared statement.  

"This is particularly important as it shows that these laws, despite how they're written, promote informed patient-provider shared decision making."