New breast density requirement gives women extra information about health

New breast density requirement gives women extra information about health
Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 10:00 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Women come in all shapes and sizes, so it makes sense their breasts are different, too.

Mammography technician Jena Zimmerman of Cotton O’Neil Clinic in Manhattan says that can make a difference for mammograms.

“The denser the breast tissue, the harder it’s going to be to be able to find an early breast cancer,” she said.

Zimmerman said missing an early cancer can be a concern.

“The earlier we can find it, the more treatable it is,” she said.

Approximately half of women over age 40 in the U.S. have dense breast tissue - and many may not know it. Thanks to a recent FDA regulation update, they soon will. It requires mammography facilities to notify patients about how dense their breasts are.

FDA officials say women with dense breast tissue should talk to their providers about their risks and whether they should have higher levels of testing.

“The breast density is important because it’s like having the patient know more information than not enough,” Zimmerman said.

Currently, 38 states already have laws requiring breast density reporting. Kansas is not among them, but many providers - including Stormont Vail - have long included the information on their own.

In addition, Zimmerman says, Stormont and Cotton O’Neil utilize 3D mammomgraphy as their standard, which all insurances now cover.

“When we had 2D mammography, it’s like we’re taking a picture of a book and taking one picture straight down on top of that book,” Zimmerman explained. “Now that we have 3D mammography, we still get that 2D image, but all those 3D images are like all those pages in that book and that separates out so the radiologist can scroll through those images and see it in a smaller form, in a thinner slice, so they can see things better.”

No matter your density, Zimmerman said the rule for women over 40 should be the same.

“The most important thing is just for ladies to get their annual mammogram,” she said.

Higher levels of screening include ultrasound and MRI, but it takes additional risk factors for insurance to cover those. Zimmerman said talk to your provider about any concerns.

Read more about breast cancer screen, treatment and prevention from the American Cancer Society.