Understanding MO Senate Bill No. 639 

Breast density in women has been a major discussion topic during the last few years. Studies have shown that dense breast tissue can make standard mammograms more difficult to interpret. Effective January 2015, Missouri will be one of 19 states to have passed a breast density law. The statement below is required on all mammogram reports and must be sent to all patients.

MO Senate Bill No. 639
“If your mammogram demonstrates that you have dense breast tissue, which could hide abnormalities, and you have other risk factors for breast cancer that have been identified, you might benefit from supplemental screening tests that may be suggested by your ordering physician. Dense breast tissue, in and of itself, is a relatively common condition. Therefore, this information is not provided to cause undue concern, but rather to raise your awareness and to promote discussion with your physician regarding the presence of other risk factors, in addition to dense breast tissue. A report of your mammography results will be sent to you and your physician. You should contact your physician if you have any questions or concerns regarding this report.”

"This language is required on all reports to patients. The fact that the statement is on your report does not indicate that you have dense breast tissue," says Dr. Aislinn Vaughan, breast surgeon and medical director, SSM Health Breast Care. "Each patient’s report will identify whether or not they have dense tissue."

Breast density is measured by four categories:  fatty, scattered fibroglandular densities, heterogeneously dense, extremely dense. It is important to note that 50 percent of patients have either heterogeneously dense or extremely dense breasts.

“Having dense breasts does not mean an individual has or will get breast cancer,” notes Dr. Vaughan.

Preliminary data are promising that 3D mammography - or tomosynthesis - may be more effective at screening dense breasts than standard digital mammography. SSM Health is converting all of their mammogram units to 3-D or tomosynthesis in early 2015. 

Dr. Vaughan states, “If a patient is identified as having dense breasts, it may be helpful to visit a breast specialist for a full risk assessment.”

You can learn more about your mammogram options or request a mammogram appointment now.