Women see changes under new mammogram law

Posted at: 04/29/2013 5:51 PM
Updated at: 04/29/2013 8:52 PM
By: Kumi Tucker

LATHAM - For months, the staff at Capital Imaging has been trying to get the word out about the new mammogram law in New York.

"We started to educate our referring physicians on the expectation that there were going to be a lot of questions, a lot of women wondering what to do next," said Michael Masone, Director of Capital Imaging.

Starting Jan. 19, women must be notified if their mammogram shows their breast tissue is dense.

Dense breast tissue is common and not abnormal, but it may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and can also make it more difficult to find cancer on a mammogram.

"The easiest explanation is that the normal fibroglandular tissue of the breast shows up as being white on the mammogram, and cancers also show up as being white on the mammogram. So the more the normal white you have on there, the harder it might be to find the little spot of abnormal whiteness on the mammogram," said Dr. Michael Gabor, radiologist.

The new requirements suggest women talk to their doctors about the information and look into other screening tests. Capital Imaging recommends follow-up ultrasounds.

"We've been doing this for a couple months and we've already found unfortunately a breast carcinoma that otherwise probably would not have been found for quite some time," said Mammographer Ruth Pintus. "Her mammogram is completely negative, she had a breast ultrasound due to the fact that she had dense breasts, and in fact we found a small cancer. So it has huge advantages for a patient's health."

The push behind this is to help women become more informed about their health and their options.

"What this bill does is have the doctor inform women about this and there are other kinds of tests that are available which aren't as effected by high density, like an ultrasound or an MRI," said Dr. Guthrie Birkhead with the state Department of Health.

"I think the real thing is getting women to talk to their doctor about the results and is there anything more I should be doing or knowing about this, and density is one factor out of many, but it's one that the doctor can tell by reading the mammogram."