Arizona SB 1225 requires doctors to inform women of breast density

Mammograms are one of the best ways to detect breast cancer.

But for some women, mammograms alone may not be enough.

Forty percent of women have dense breast tissue which shows up white in a mammogram, which could mask a tumor – delaying detection.

Patients like Paty De La Rosa-Acosta - who understood the importance of getting checked.

"I had a few friends with cancer. My aunt had cancer and my father died of cancer," said Paty.

So for 16 years, she never missed her mammogram.

"The results were always normal," said Paty.

But just months after her last breast exam, Paty noticed a change.

"I noticed one of my breasts were perkier than the other. I got worried," said Paty.

But even after getting another mammogram, the results came back normal. It wasn't until a sonogram did the doctors discover a 9-centimeter mass.

Paty had stage three breast cancer.

"I really thought I was going to die," said Paty.

So how could a mass that big go undetected? Paty's breast tissue was dense, which shows up white on a mammogram.

"Unfortunately cancer is also white- they look the same as tissue, which means it is hard to detect small masses," said Radiologist Dr. Nicole Saphier.

Dr. Saphier said the results patients get from their doctors may say it’s negative or normal. But the results the doctors get from the radiologist have a disclaimer if there is dense breast tissue. It states that the dense tissue may make it hard to detect a mass. Information Paty was never told.

"I feel like I got cheated. I was doing everything, yet we didn't catch it," said Paty.

But SB 1225, just signed by Governor Brewer, would require doctors to explain how dense breast tissue could impact the results. It would open up a dialogue, allowing the patients to determine whether they need to get additional tests.

"If I knew what dense tissue meant, I would have asked for another type of screening." said Paty.

Thankfully, Paty is in remission.

The alternative tests patients with dense breast tissue can take are an ultrasound or a MRI.

Arizona is now among 15 states that have this law in place.

You can learn more about dense breast tissue here.

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