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Breast density notifications not having intended effect, say researchers

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | December 19, 2019
Women's Health

JoAnn Pushkin, executive director of nonprofit educational group DenseBreast-info.org, says that in her anecdotal experience, "inform" laws do increase awareness but not necessarily understanding “as to what the notification means in terms of next steps or what follow-up conversations may be beneficial to have with a health provider,” and asserts that a single national reporting standard is necessary to address this issue.

She adds, however, that the study’s findings should be read with caution, noting a number of limitations, such as the fact that it does not account for DBNs varying widely in depth and breadth regarding the level of information provided.

“Some state laws (CT, TX, NJ, MD, MO and LA) do not tell the woman if she, herself, has dense breasts, and instead supply only general information about breast density. Thus, women in these states, who do live in a state with an ‘inform’ law, are not notified that they actually have dense breasts,” she said. “Another variation is that while some state inform laws mention the possible benefit of supplemental screening, others do not. The study did not distinguish between "inform" laws that do versus don't tell women if they actually have dense breasts, or laws that do versus don't mention supplemental screening as a topic to discuss with a health provider. To understand the effect of personal notification, an analysis of state inform laws which do contain personal density notification and mention of supplemental screening compared to states with no DBN would have been helpful.”

Funding was provided through a pilot grant from the Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Kressin also received support through a Senior VA Health Services Research Career Scientist award from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research and Development Service. Another author, Dr. Christine M. Gunn, was supported by the National Cancer Institute.

The findings were published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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