By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
The D.C. Council pushed forward the Breast Density Screening and Notification Act of 2018, which would require that women be informed if they have dense breast tissue, an independent risk factor for breast cancer, officials said. This legislation also requires insurance coverage for necessary additional screenings for women with dense breast tissue.
The Brem Foundation, along with Goldblatt Martin Pozen, worked with the Council to shape and ultimately pass the legislation. The Brem Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to maximizing women’s chances of finding more curable breast cancer through expert education about early detection, access to diagnostic tests and physician training.
“In the District, 28.5 women of 100,000 die of breast cancer every year,” said Council member Vincent Gray, who also serves as Health Committee chairman. “Women with dense tissue need extra screening to catch earlier, more curable breast cancers, but they cannot get the screening they need if they are not aware that they have dense tissue in the first place. That is why I introduced the Breast Density and Screening Notification Act of 2018 which requires health care facilities to include information about breast density in federally required mammography reports. I am proud of this bill as it will empower our residents to take control of their health care and undoubtedly save lives.”
The District joins 37 other states in passing breast density notification laws. This law will also be critical for women with lower incomes to have access to additional screenings. This is pivotal because D.C. tops the nation in breast cancer related deaths according to data by the American Cancer Society.
Currently, over 40 percent of women in the U.S. have dense breast tissue. This means they have a higher ratio of connective tissue to fatty tissue in their breasts. Dense tissue is not only a risk factor for breast cancer, but having it makes breast cancer harder to find on a mammogram. Women with dense breast tissue need additional screenings, such as ultrasounds.
“Breast density is a real and strong risk factor for developing breast cancer. This legislation will empower women, save lives, and bring the D.C. community one step closer to a day when D.C. no longer claims the highest death rate from breast cancer. Thank you to all of the heroic survivors, doctors, legislators, advocates, and champions who made this possible,” said Andrea Wolf, executive director of the Brem Foundation.
Anne Kalosh, a D.C. resident, spoke to the AFRO about her personal relationship with the disease and dense breast tissue, saying, “what this legislation is about saved my life. And probably will save the life of a lot of other people.”
Kalosh said that growing up everyone she knew who had breast cancer died, including her mother, and two of her aunts. “I was always very aware of breast cancer and was always afraid of breast cancer.”
Because of her family history, Kalosh said she had always gotten screenings since her 20s. Doctor’s identified that she had dense breast tissue and suggested she get ultrasound along with her mammograms. Kalosh explained that abnormalities on a mammogram look white and so does dense breast tissue, which can make it difficult to see if something is wrong. “That’s why an ultrasound can help for women like me,” Kalosh said.
“I’m extremely lucky,” Kalosh said. Just last year she found cancer in her breast from an ultrasound, not from a mammogram. Luckily doctors at GW Cancer Center found it early enough and her prognosis is good after treatment.
Here are a few facts about dense tissue and breast cancer:
- Women with very dense breasts are 4.7 times more likely to develop breast cancer
- Ultrasound finds 24 percent more cancers in women with dense breast tissue
- Sensitivity of mammography is 85 percent in all women but only 47.8 percent-64.4 percent in women with dense breast tissue
- 1 in 8 American women will get breast cancer during her lifetime
- Over 95 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer in early stages will survive and thrive
- The survival rate drops to about 22 percent when breast cancer is detected at Stage 4.
- In 2019, over 331,430 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer,
and 41,760 women will likely die from the disease.
For more information about the Brem Foundation please go to http://www.bremfoundation.org/