Governor Brown Vetoes
Breast Cancer Detection Bill
California women were one step closer to knowing their critical risk factor for breast cancer that is generally withheld. In August California State Senator Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto) ushered the Breast Density Inform Bill (SB 791) through the California Legislature with the help from testimonies by Amy Colton, RN, whose mammogram failed to detect her breast cancer, and Judy Dean, MD Board Certified Diagnostic Radiologist of Santa Barbara breast health imaging specialist.
Colton took her complaint to Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto who introduced the bill which would require doctors to tell women if they have dense breasts. After powerful testimony from Colton and Dr. Dean, California law makers clearly understood the necessity and importance of the law, but supporters were dumbfounded when California’s powerful medical lobby (i.e. California Medical Association, California Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Radiology) tried to vigorously block legislation.
Similar legislation has already passed in the state of Connecticut and Texas. Congress and the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Florida all have related legislation pending.
To voice your support, contact Governor Brown’s office at http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php or visit http://www.senatorsimitian.com/legislation
Gaea Powell is a BCT and Breast Health Advocate.
The measure was supported by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the California Nurses Association, the Breast Cancer Fund, the California Association of Health Underwriters, the California Communities United Institute, and California NOW. The Bill would require that following a mammogram, patients with dense breast tissue be informed that they have dense breast tissue, dense breast tissue can obscure abnormalities (i.e., cancer) on a mammogram, and that a patient may wish to discuss the potential value of additional screening(s) with their doctors.
Because dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram, and cancer also appears white, it can be very difficult to see the cancer. “Which is why,” said Simitian, “it’s so important that a patient be told they have dense breast tissue that may limit the ability of the mammogram to spot a problem. When it comes to your health ignorance is not bliss. What you don’t know can hurt you. This bill would have given patients the information they need to make informed decisions about their own bodies and their own health and a two-sentence notice could save thousands of lives.” Simitian added, “Senate Bill 791 would also save money, because treating cancer in its early stages is far less expensive than battling advanced cancer.”
“Numerous studies show that women with dense breast tissue face a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and studies also show that dense breast tissue is the most frequent reason cancer is missed by mammography,” said Santa Barbara radiologist Judy Dean. “These two facts mandate that we stop withholding density information from women, so that they can make informed decisions about their health.”
A January 2011 a study by the Mayo Clinic found that in women with dense breast tissue 75% of cancer is missed by mammography alone. The National Cancer Institute estimates that one in eight women will develop breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer for women with dense breast tissue, more than half of all women, is five times greater, yet the overwhelming majority of women are unaware of their own breast density.
“I’m the patient; it’s my body but I was never informed,” said Colton, who lives in Soquel. “It just took my breath away.”
For seven years, since turning 40, Colton religiously scheduled a mammogram. Every year, the test showed “normal” results. Two years ago, however, the registered nurse was told she was in the latter stages of breast cancer. Devastated, Colton investigated. She learned that her radiologist and primary-care physician knew she had a condition called “dense breasts” that blocks the detection of cancer cells in mammograms. She should have been informed of her density after her first mammogram allowing her the opportunity and choice of utilizing other options such as breast thermography, ultrasound and/or breast MRI.