Authors- Meagan Williams, MD, Director of Women’s Health and Jocelyn Sarkaria, DO
As we recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, we hope a mandate by the Food and Drug Administration this year (March 2023) will encourage more folks to get mammograms and have conversations with their primary care physicians about their risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States after skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Globally, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer, accounting for more than 2 million cases each year. Fortunately, deaths from breast cancer have been declining since the 1970s due to improved breast cancer screening modalities and improvements in therapies. If caught early, most breast cancers respond well to therapy.
By this time next year (September 2024), the new FDA mandate will require mammogram facilities across the United States to provide people with information on the density of their breasts and to explain that dense breasts are a risk factor for breast cancer. Right now, at least 38 states, including Texas, require people to be notified if they have dense breasts. The mandate amends regulations issued in the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) of 1992 which aimed to ensure quality mammography for all women.
Dense breast tissue contains more fibrous and glandular tissue than fat, and about half of all women in the U.S. are considered to have dense breast tissue. The dense tissue can make it more challenging for radiologists to read the mammogram and see cancers. Increased breast density is also an independent risk factor for breast cancer. Find a doctor who gets to know you and your breast cancer risk factors
What is a mammogram and how much does it cost?
Mammograms are X-ray images of the breast. Each breast will be compressed for about 20 to 30 seconds while the image is taken. The machines emit a very small amount of radiation that is not harmful. The images will be sent to and interpreted by a radiologist who specializes in mammograms. The report is then sent to your provider. More information and tips for getting a mammogram can be found here.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a mammogram is considered a preventative service and should be completely covered by your insurance. You should check with your insurance provider to verify coverage and costs. If you require additional imaging, it will likely have an associated cost.
Find a physician you can talk openly to about your risks
Doctors recommend women at average risk of breast cancer start mammogram screenings between the ages of 40 and 50. Those recommendations can change if their risk is higher. If dense breast tissue is discovered in one of our clients, we attempt to have an open and honest conversation about all the risk factors and identify strategies for the next steps in care. It is important for all people to be empowered with information about their health and have a clinician they can trust through collaboration in making the best decisions for their health journeys.
For more information on how you can co-create your health, click here.