The FDA just released new national standards in an effort to identify breast cancer earlier in more women. The key update to the regulations requires facilities that provide mammograms to inform patients if they have dense breasts.
This amendment is important and can make a huge difference in detecting breast cancer. “Dense breast tissue can make cancers more difficult to detect on a mammogram,” explains the FDA release. Additionally, the CDC notes that women with dense breasts have a higher chance of getting breast cancer. The more dense the breasts, the higher the risk.
Higher breast density alone isn’t necessarily something to worry about. According to the FDA, half of women over 40 in the U.S. have dense breast tissue. These new rules will require mammogram providers to notify women if they have dense breast tissue and recommend they consult with a doctor about whether they need additional screening. These amendments must be in practice within the next 18 months.
Los Angeles diagnostic radiologist Anne Hoyt, MD, told NBC, “Sometimes women that have breast cancers that are present, those breast cancers are not seen on the mammogram because they are hidden by breast density.” Boston oncologist Harold Burstein, MD, also told the outlet he compared reading mammograms of dense breasts to looking through frosted glass. It’s just not as clear.
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