New Mammogram Law To Help Better Detect Dense Breast Tissue

A law involving mammogram's goes into effect at the first of the year.  Henda's Law requires hospitals to explain the need for more thoroughly breast examinations, should a patient have dense breast tissue.

Henda's Law was signed back in September, but as of January 1st hospitals are required to alert and inform women of the possible risk of undetected cancer hidden in denser breast tissue.  This law will work to bring more awareness and possible additional screening for women who's tissue can make it harder to detect cancer.

"We've seen a rise in incidents of breast cancer in the baseline age group," says Susan Basham, Mammography Coordinator at United Regional.

Basham says women should have their baseline exam by age 35 and it's in this age group that cancer numbers have risen, but a new law hopes to bring awareness earlier.

"Henda's Law should help us identify those patients who may not have an increase risk for breast cancer, but do have a greater difficulty in identifying a cancer," says Dr. David Spencer, a radiology physician.

The law is named after a Dallas woman diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.  Her diagnosis came after her mammography showed no traces of cancer.  It was her dense tissue that hid the legions making it difficult for doctors to recognize until it had grown.

"Dense breasts require more scrutiny and might require additional imagining," says Spencer.

Typically, dense breast tissue clouds the mammogram showing up white just like legions.  Under the law, women with denser breast tissue must be given information on how additional tests like ultrasounds and MRIs may help to detect possible cancers.

"We're just letting the patient know what their breast density is in a report to their physician," Basham explains.

Postings explaining the law will be posted in mammography exam rooms in the hospital and health officials say they hope this will spark important conversations on breast health between patients and physicians.

"They need to ask the question do I have dense breast tissue and am I at a greater risk, do I have any additional risk factors that should prompt to ask for additional imaging procedures," she says.

Health officials in the women's imaging center at United Regional say Henda's Law is intended to bring a heightened awareness to patients.  The law will work to better inform women of the possible risks of dense breast tissue.  Texas and Connecticut are the only two states who have passed this law.

Taelor Rian, Newschannel 6