SALEM, Ore. – A legislative panel could vote in Salem Tuesday to advance a measure to increase early detection of breast cancer. It would require doctors to tell their patients if their mammograms show dense breast tissue, and make their insurance cover extra testing.
Most women don’t know their breast density, or what that really even means. Dense breast tissue is characterized by a higher than normal amount of connective tissue. Women with the condition can be four to six times more likely develop breast cancer.
Cancer patient Laura Caldwell of Eugene testified in front of the Oregon state Senate health committee last month. She says she asked her doctor why her breast cancer went undetected for two years.
“The tumors just don’t show up as easily on mammograms of women with dense tissue," Caldwell explains. "In fact he said he was looking at my now eight week old mammogram and he still couldn’t see the tumor on the scan, even though pathology had confirmed the cancer diagnosis.”
Caldwell supports a measure to require physicians to inform women of the risks of having dense breast tissue, and to encourage appropriate supplemental screenings. Health insurance companies would have to reimburse the cost of the extra testing.
On the Web:
SB 420: Breast cancer testing - Oregon Legislature
Breast density facts - Susan G. Komen for the Cure