Michigan's Breast Density Law took effect June 1st, requiring all mammogram providers to notify patients if the test reveals they have dense breasts. The condition can lead to a higher risk for breast cancer. Minnesota lawmakers passed a similar law, but now it's raising questions because some patients don't know what it is.
In the case of the Mayo Clinic, patients will get a letter where in the third paragraph it tells you about your breast density. But what many people are asking is, what does this really mean?
It's meant to let them know a mammogram may not always pinpoint cancer. Dr. Sarah Crane, Mayo Clinic says, "Particularly if you have breast dense it can miss things, so if you have a lump, you notice a change, come find us."
That was the case for Gloria Paulson. She says her doctor notified her. "He told me that I had breast density and that more testing needed to be done that the mammograms really wasn't showing everything." Which prompts questions for some patients, like "What are my chances? What should I be watching for?" Dr. Crane says, "O.K. Well now what do I do? I'd like something to compensate for that is everybody's next question." But it's not so simple to answer and isn't spelled out in the letter.
Crane says, "The challenge with the breast density law and the mammogram is, that what's unclear is what is the best screening if you have very dense breasts." Yet what it does do, is aware the patient of another way to work with their doctor to monitor their health. Crane says, "If you feel something, if you notice a change, be proactive about your own health is really what they're trying to communicate more than anything."