Wisconsin lawmakers want patients to know their breast density for breast cancer risk

Local News

Two Wisconsin state lawmakers, Representative Mike Rohrkaste and Senator Alberta Darling, have introduced a bill that would allow patients to learn their breast tissue density after completing a mammogram.

The bill would require medical centers to report the composition of a patient’s breast tissue density to the patient after they have had a mammogram, which can help them learn more about their breast cancer risk. 

Breast tissue density refers to the composition of two types of tissues found in the breast: active breast tissue, which helps with breastfeedng, and fatty tissue.

Active breast tissue is more dense, while fatty tissue is less dense.

The ratio of the two types of tissues is different for every woman.

A mammogram shows how much of a woman’s breast tissue is dense, but Wisconsin law does not require breast tissue density to be reported to patients.

Therefore, a woman wouldn’t know if her breast tissue density could be a risk factor for breast cancer.

“The breast density is listed in the report but it doesn’t get to the patient. And so those states that have mandated this, the patient will now receive in her letter how does her mammogram look, is there any risk of cancer in it, and she’ll also be told what the breast density is,” Dr. William Owens, director of Aurora BayCare Medical Center’s Comprehensive Breast Care Center, said.

This is why it is important for a woman to know her breast tissue density: not only can more dense breasts hide tumors in mammograms, but breast density is also a factor in breast cancer risk overall.

“The higher the breast density, the greater the risk of getting breast  cancer, but also the greater the chance the cancer might be missed on a regular standard mammogram,” Dr. Owens explained.

Women who have more dense breasts may need to talk to their doctor about 3D mammograms.

“The 3D mammogram takes several sliced pictures, and the radiologist can scroll through those pictures when they read the mammogram, and it’s been shown that hidden masses or tumors within that dense breast tissue are easier to find,” Dr. Owens said. “My advice would be if the woman has dense breast tissue, share that with their provider, and ask if her next mammogram should potentially be this 3D mammogram.”

Breast tissue density legislation has already been passed in 30 states. 

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