FDA's New Mammogram Guidelines Could Help Detect Breast Cancer Earlier

Mammogram providers will be expected to notify women if they have dense breast tissue and recommend that they consult with a doctor about whether they need additional screening to look for cancer

A woman gets a mammogram

All U.S. women getting mammograms will soon receive information about their breast density, which can sometimes make cancer harder to spot.

The new requirements, finalized Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration, are aimed at standardizing the information given to millions of women following scans to detect breast cancer to include recommendations they speak with their doctor about undergoing additional screening.

“Today’s action represents the agency’s broader commitment to support innovation to prevent, detect and treat cancer,” Dr. Hilary Marston, the FDA’s chief medical officer, said in a statement published by NBC News

Regulators first proposed the changes in 2019 and healthcare providers will have 18 months to comply with the policy.
Some states already require that women receive information on breast density.

About half of women over age 40 have dense breasts, with less fatty tissue and more connective and glandular tissue. That tissue appears white on X-rays, the same color as growths in the breast, making mammograms harder to read.

Dense breast tissue is one of the factors that can increase a woman's chances of developing cancer.

Under the new rules, women with dense breasts will receive a written memo alerting them that their status "makes it harder to find breast cancer." Those patients will also be directed to speak with their doctor about their results and whether they should receive additional screening to look for cancer.

Professional guidelines don't specify next steps for women identified with dense breasts, but some physicians may recommend additional forms of scanning, including ultrasound or MRI.

Ann-Marie Appiah Swatson remembers feeling a lump in her breast and getting tested. Thankfully, it was benign - but she says it shows the importance for young women of color to know their genetic history and get tested. She's the founder of nonprofit Painted Pink, encouraging just that.
NBC 5 and the Associated Press
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