Catharine Becker at her home in Fullerton, California on April 14, 2014. Becker started to get mammograms at age 35 because she had a family history of breast cancer (Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).
By Barbara Feder Ostrov
Earlier this year, Caryn Hoadley received an unexpected letter after a routine mammogram.
The letter said her mammogram was clean but that she has dense breast tissue, which has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer and could make her mammogram harder to read.
“I honestly don’t know what to think about the letter,” said Hoadley, 45, who lives in Alameda, Calif. “What do I do with that information?”
Millions of women like Hoadley may be wondering the same thing. Twenty-one states, including California, have passed laws requiring health facilities to notify women when they have dense breasts. Eleven other states are considering similar laws and a nationwide version has been introduced in Congress.
The laws have been hailed by advocates as empowering women to take charge of their own health. About 40 percent of women have dense or extremely dense breast tissue, which can obscure cancer that might otherwise be detected on a mammogram.
But critics say the laws cause women unnecessary anxiety and can lead to higher costs and treatment that doesn’t save lives or otherwise benefit patients. Continue reading