California’s breast density law is scheduled to expire in January 2019. Legislation has been introduced to remove the law’s sunset clause by Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, but nothing has been finalized at this time.
To gauge the feelings of people most affected by this possible expiration, Are You Dense and Are You Dense Advocacy surveyed more than 500 women between the ages of 40 and 74 who live in California and have had a mammogram within the last two years. Responses were collected in March 2018.
These are three key takeaways from their findings:
1. Women want the law to remain.
Ninety-five percent of survey respondents want the law to remain, and another 85 percent said they agree that it is important for women to know the density of their own breast tissue. In addition, 88 percent said they would rather know their breast density than not know it.
“It is critically important that the voices of women who participate in mammography screening are front and center as the merits of the breast density law are debated,” Nancy M. Cappello, PhD, founder and executive director of Are You Dense and Are You Dense Advocacy, said in a prepared statement. “Furthermore, California women want the law to stay in place as it is leading to conversations between patient and provider about personalized screening potentially resulting in early detection, an opportunity I never had.”
“The survey confirms that California women want information about their breast tissue density,” Amy Colton, a nurse from Santa Cruz, California, said in the same statement. “It validates their belief that patients have a right to know about their own physiology and that dense breasts present a risk and may influence the accuracy of screening.”
2. Most women know that dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to see cancer on a mammogram.
Respondents were asked about how dense breast tissue can impact a mammogram. While 74 percent said it made it harder to see cancer on the mammogram, 18 percent answered that they don’t know. Five percent said they thought dense breast tissue made it easier to see cancer on a mammogram, and three percent said it had no impact either way.
3. Healthcare providers are working to keep women informed.
Sixty-eight percent of respondents learned of their breast tissue type by speaking with a healthcare provider. In addition, 59 percent of respondents who had dense breasts said their provider had discussed potential screening options with them.
The full survey report is available on the Are You Dense website.