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New Website Addresses Breast Density Notification

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New site helps answer questions regarding breast density notification, and efficacy, benefits, and harms of supplementary screening tests.

A new website can help clinicians navigate challenges introduced by the breast density notification laws, according to an article published in the journal Radiology.

On April 1, 2013, it became mandatory for physicians in California to notify, in writing, patients with dense breast tissue about their screening options.

“The legislation was prompted by breast cancer advocacy groups motivated to educate women regarding the limitations of mammography,” Jafi A. Lipson, MD, said in a release.

Lipson, an assistant professor of radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and colleagues from the California Breast Density Information group (CBDIG) developed the website. It’s an online document that answers frequently asked questions about the efficacy, benefits, and harm of supplementary screening tests.

Dense breast tissue can mask tumors, but the California law does not take into account the varying risk levels of individual patients, such as women who have the BRCA genetic mutation. One of the issues involved in additional breast cancer screening is the risk of increased false positives and benign breast biopsies, which could expose some patients to more harm than good.

Increased cost is another concern.

“While additional screening for women with extremely dense breasts could prove beneficial, supplemental screening of the approximately 40 percent of California women with heterogeneously dense breasts would result in a very substantial additional cost to the healthcare system,” Lipson pointed out.

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