By Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director
New evidence published yesterday shows only some women with dense breasts are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Breast density alone is not a good predictor of risk and must be considered along with a multitude of risk factors for breast cancer. This data further calls into question the utility and wisdom of widespread breast density notification laws.
Breast Cancer Action opposes breast density notification laws because they represent an overreach of lawmakers that fail to achieve the intended aim of improving communications between patients and health care providers. Increasingly, politicians are writing and passing laws that dictate what is said, and not said, by health providers to their patients on a range of health and safety issues that include abortion, gun safety, hazardous chemical exposures, and now breast density.
At Breast Cancer Action, we work to make sure that all women have access to balanced, evidence-based information as they navigate highly personal breast cancer decisions, and we believe that the relationship between patients and their health care providers is not served by legislating speech. Important conversations about breast cancer should include balanced, evidence-based information such as individual risk factors, screening and treatment options, harms and benefits of specific procedures and drugs, and more. Conversations about the harms, limitations and benefits of screening are not limited to breast density any more than conversations about risk ought to focus solely on breast density.
Even when physicians discuss breast density with patients, there is no clear medical consensus what to do about this information: frustrating though it may be to many women and their health providers, the research has not demonstrated clear benefit of supplemental screening for women with dense breasts.
Legislating a conversation between a woman and her healthcare provider about the composition of her breast tissue will not improve patient-provider communications and is a misguided intrusion on the patient-provider relationship.