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Putting the patient first: What you need to know about the new national breast density guidelines

May 08, 2023
Women's Health
Susan Harvey
By Susan Harvey

Health care centers strive to provide medical care through a patient-centric model, ensuring access to quality care that considers a patient’s needs, preferences, and experiences. The approach that facilities take to implementing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) updated Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) requiring patient notification of breast density should be no different.

These key revisions now require clinicians to provide patients with information about their breast density while also enhancing the reporting requirements and the FDA’s auditing capabilities to ensure consistent, high-quality patient care nationally. Breast density has been a topic of interest for years and there have been many campaigns advocating for a national standard for communicating to patients about their breast density. These efforts resulted in 38 states and the District of Columbia issuing state mandates for breast density patient notification, which have now coalesced with this long-anticipated national requirement regarding breast tissue density notification from the FDA.

This national mandate provides clinicians and women the opportunity to review the importance of breast density, as both a risk factor for breast cancer and making breast tumors more difficult to find on mammographic imaging. This knowledge can be used to clarify that breast density is a nonmodifiable risk factor and can help determine the type(s) of imaging that are most beneficial for the detection of breast cancer for each woman at the time of screening. By focusing on a patient-centric approach, facilities can consider how breast density impacts their patients and how these updates will impact their daily operations – setting the stage for implementing the new MQSA breast tissue density regulations over the next 18 months.

Providing clear, understandable communication to women
Health care facilities can maintain their patient-centric focus by employing clear communication methods to meet the new MQSA breast tissue density requirements. Communication goes beyond just patient correspondence, as clinicians must also work in partnership with the entire care team, including their referring providers. Together, the patient’s radiologist, primary care physician (PCP), breast surgeon and obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN) should determine the best way to work as a team to share this information. The PCP and OB/GYN can support the radiologist in delivering breast tissue density information in a way that creates action and encourages the patient to discuss it with their breast health specialist.

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