NEWPORT — Getting your annual mammogram screening has been the key method for detecting breast cancer. 3D mammography, like that found at North Country Hospital and many facilities around the country, has improved mammography’s ability to detect breast cancers earlier, improving chances for survival.
A new Vermont law that has just gone into effect mandates that providers of mammography services notify patients of the status of their breast density.
Having dense breast tissue is no cause for alarm and in fact is very common. Approximately 40-50 percent of women are considered to have dense or intermediate density breast tissue.
“What the law requires mammography providers to do is notify patients of their breast density if judged high or intermediate so the patient can then discuss and decide with their doctor if additional screening tests like ultrasound or MRI are appropriate,” said Dr. Steven Perlin, Radiologist at North Country Hospital.
Although the law has just gone into effect, North Country Hospital began sending notices to patients since July of 2016.
Breast tissue is comprised of a combination of fatty tissue, fibrous tissue and glandular tissue. A patient with a higher amount of fibrous tissue and glandular tissue would be considered to have “mammographically dense breast tissue.”
Dense breast tissue can make it more difficult for a radiologist to see a lesion or mass on a mammogram as it can be obscured by or blend in with the surrounding tissues.
The American College of Radiology recommends that women age 40 and over receive an annual mammogram screening regardless of breast density.
Having dense breast tissue is not a diagnosis or disease.
Notifying patients of their breast density status simply gives patients greater knowledge that they can use to make decisions regarding their own health.