Breast density notification laws not effective for all women

Assessing the association between residing in a state with a DBN law and women’s awareness.

Breast density is a term that depicts the general measure of various sorts of breast tissues (glandular, connective, and fat), as observed on a mammogram. Until now, 38 states have enacted dense breast notification (DBN) laws mandating that mammogram reports include language informing women of risks related to dense breast tissue.

The new study aims to determine the association between residing in a state with a DBN law and women’s awareness and knowledge about breast density and breast cancer anxiety.

A previous study explored women’s knowledge and perceptions of breast density and experiences of breast cancer screening across three states with and without notification laws. Scientists found that women from all countries had varying knowledge about their breast density and breast density in general.

A new study by the Yale scientists in collaboration with New York University, suggests that although DBN laws did help some women understand they had increased breast density, those women were not more likely to know that breast density is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer or that dense breasts limit the ability of mammograms to detect cancer. 

Senior author Cary Gross, M.D., a Yale professor of medicine and member of the Yale Cancer Center, said, “We know that women with less education are less likely to receive high-quality breast cancer screening and treatment. Our study underscores one potential mechanism for this disparity. Ensuring that notifications are written in simple language may help improve understanding of breast density for all women.”

Almost 1,928 women across the country were surveyed in the study. They did not find any difference in breast cancer-related anxiety between women in DBN and non-DBN states. Women in DBN states were more likely to know if they have increased breast density, but only when those women had higher than a high school level of education.

NYU’s Kelly Kyanko, M.D., first author of the study, said“The goal for these state laws is not being met. Women who lived in states with DBN laws were not more likely to understand the implications of breast density — that having dense breasts meant they were at increased risk of breast cancer or that the radiologist would have a harder time seeing cancer on their mammogram.”

The study appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Other co-authors of the study are Jessica Hoag, Susan Busch, Jenerius Aminawung, Xiao Xu, and Ilana Richman.

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