ASBD: MDs should share breast density, cancer risk info with women

Women need to understand breast density and its impact on lifetime breast cancer risk, according to a statement issued by the American Society of Breast Disease (ASBD).

If women know their lifetime risk and whether or not their breasts are dense, they will be better equipped to understand the recommendations their physicians make—and make more informed screening decisions themselves, the organization said.

The ASBD noted the range and continuum of breast cancer screening tools, including whole-breast ultrasound and breast MRI. Decision-making regarding various modalities depends on a woman’s risk factors.

"We have more effective methods than ever for detecting breast cancer," said Richard W. Reitherman, PhD, MD, ASBD board member. "For those methods to be used in the most effective way possible, women and their physicians have to work closely together in making breast screening decisions. This can only happen if women have better information about their cancer risk and the density of their breasts."

Breast cancer risk hinges on multiple factors, including age, family history and breast density. However, unlike age and family history, breast density information is only available in a mammogram report.

ASBD noted that five states—California, New York, Virginia, Connecticut and Texas—have passed legislation requiring communication of breast density in a patient letter. More than a dozen other states are weighing similar legislation and Congress is considering a federal law.

"In our view, breast cancer screening today is best seen as a multidisciplinary process, not a single test," said Stephen A. Feig, MD, ASBD president. "As part of this process, we support women being informed participants, with their primary physicians and their OB-GYN specialists, in their breast health decisions. Besides making women more satisfied patients, this leads to better compliance and better outcomes."