Federal breast density legislation introduced in Senate

Legislation mandating a minimum federal standard for notifying women if they have dense breast tissue has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The "Breast Density and Mammography Reporting Act" was introduced July 17 by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)--and like a number of similar pieces of legislation passed in individual states, requires that mammogram reports include whether a woman has dense breast tissue.

The proposed legislation also includes a minimum standard set by the secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for notification, and recommends that women discuss with their doctors whether additional screening is necessary.

The bill specifies that certain information be contained in the notification, including information about breast density and the effect breast density has on masking the presence of breast cancer on mammograms. In addition, it calls for the inclusion of language that individuals with dense breasts should consult with their physicians about questions or concerns and whether the patient would benefit from additional tests.

The legislation also directs that HHS secretary to "expand and intensify" programs and activities supporting applied research on breast density; research on cost-effectiveness, effectiveness and feasibility of reimbursement models for supplemental imaging relating to breast density; and research on clinical guidelines and best practices relating to mammograms and supplemental screening for women with dense breast tissue.

"Early detection of breast cancer is key to survival, and women must be given every available resource to make informed health care decisions," Feinstein said in a statement. "By requiring that patients be informed if they have dense tissue, this bill allows women to make potentially lifesaving choices about their care."

Ayotte called preventative screenings "critically important" to the early detection of breast cancer.

"It's also important that women have the information they need to be able to make informed decisions about their healthcare, and our bipartisan bill would ensure that women are informed about their relative breast density after a mammogram--giving them the option to discuss additional screenings and tests with their doctor," she said.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced similar legislation in the House last fall.

To learn more:
- read the bill (.pdf)
- here's the statement from Ayotte and Feinstein
- here's DeLauro's legislation