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Breast Density Notification Bill on its Way to State Assembly

2 Mins read

Misdirected Concerns prompt ill-advised regulatory bill in California  State Senate.


By Jason Green

Daily News Staff Writer

The California State Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would require women to be notified they have dense breast tissue if it is detected by a mammogram, according to its author, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.

Senate Bill 1538, which now heads to the state Assembly, would also force health care providers to explain that dense breast tissue can obscure cancer on a mammogram and to discuss the value of additional screenings.

Last year, similar legislation received bipartisan support but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Simitian said his breast density notification law has the potential to save lives: Two studies from the first year of a similar law’s implementation in Connecticut have shown a 100 percent increase in breast cancer detection rates in women with dense breast tissue who had further tests.

“My hope is that we can get to ‘yes’ this year and that we can begin saving lives as soon as possible,” Simitian said in a statement. “This bill simply requires that information that is already shared between doctors also be shared with a patient herself. This is about a patient’s right to know. It is about giving patients the information they need to be effective advocates for their own health.”

Santa Cruz resident Amy Colton suggested the bill in 2011 during Simitian’s “There Oughta be a Law” contest. The registered nurse and breast cancer survivor was never informed of her breast density during years of routine

mammograms and only discovered that she had dense tissue after completing her treatment for breast cancer, according to Simitian’s office.

Dense breast tissue and cancer are difficult to tell apart on a mammogram because both appear white. A January 2011 study by the Mayo Clinic found that in women with dense breast tissue, 75 percent of cancer is missed by mammography alone.

An estimated one in eight women will develop breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. The risk for women with extremely dense breast tissue is five times greater than the risk for women with low density breast tissue, according to Simitian’s office.

If the bill is signed into law, California would join a growing list of states, including Texas and Virginia, with breast density notification laws. Congress and 15 states have similar legislation pending.

While well intentioned this is an unecessary state law and should be governed by the state medical board or board of radiology. This would increase costs to administer and enforce. (we need less government and governmental expense)

Email Jason Green at



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