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Maryland governor signs breast density law

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | May 20, 2013
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed new legislation that will require doctors to inform women of their breast density and the possible risks following a mammogram.

Thirty-two percent of U.S. women now live in states where density notification is required in the patient "lay" letter, according to JoAnn Pushkin, co-founder of D.E.N.S.E. (Density Education National Survivors' Effort) and founder of D.E.N.S.E. NY.

Maryland is the seventh state to enact a mandatory breast density inform law. Connecticut was the first state to pass legislation in 2009, followed by Texas, Virginia, California, New York, and most recently Hawaii.

Maryland's law becomes effective on October 1, 2013.

According to patient advocates, effective density notification should clearly tell a woman that she has dense breast tissue, which can interfere with the effectiveness of a mammogram. Besides discussing risk factors, doctors should also inform patients of the benefits of further screening, like ultrasound.

On a mammogram, dense breasts have less fat and more connective tissue, which appears white on the mammogram, just like cancer, possibly making it easy for radiologists to miss. Studies have also shown that women with dense breast tissue have a higher rate of breast cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even includes it on its list of "Risk Factors" for the development of breast cancer. However, to date, no evidence points to breast density being linked to increased cancer deaths.

Density inform laws have also been introduced in over a dozen other states.

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