Mammography has been the standard diagnostic procedure for breast examination. However, it has been observed to be ineffective in some cases, particularly in women with dense breast tissue. According to statistics, 40% of women have dense breast tissue, which on a mammogram appears white same as cancer. It would thus be difficult for physicians to distinguish one from the other, and in turn, lead to poor breast cancer detection.
This has prompted Senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto to come up with a legislation piece requiring women with breast dense tissue to be adequately informed of the limitations of mammograms and other screening options available.
Gov. Jerry Brown has recently signed the bill, making California the fifth state to impose a breast density notification law. Leading the trend are New York, Virginia, Texas and Connecticut while other states are still considering enforcing the same.
The bill was initially vetoed but after a few amendments, Simitian was finally given a nod by the Governor. According to the state senator, this law is set to be a “technology driver” as it stresses the weaknesses of current medical technologies and consequently the need for a more appropriate and effective alternative. Among the recommended alternative screening techniques are gamma imaging, 3D mammography, MRI, and automated ultrasounds.
Automated ultrasounds are said to show a lot of promise in delivering highly reliable breast cancer detection. Dr. Dipa Patel, a breast imaging specialist who uses automated ultrasound in conjunction with mammograms, claims that she can spot nearly all cancers with hardly any false positives.
Judging by the enormous number of mammograms done annually in the US (approximately 40 million), there is little doubt that the expected market for other screening options will be just as big—more or less 18 million.