Breast density law aims to detect breast cancer early on - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Breast density law aims to detect breast cancer early on

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A new law taking effect in the new year will require providers to tell patients who receive mammograms if they have dense breasts, which could detect breast cancer early on. 

The new law, signed into law by Governor Brandstad last April, will provide women with more information than a simple mammogram. The law now requires all Iowa facilities that provide mammography services to also notify patients of their breast density. The information on breast density will be sent in a letter to the patients home, following their mammogram. 

KWWL spoke with Dr. Meghna Krishnan, at Covenant Medical Centers Comprehensive Breast Center, to better understand what patients can expect. 

Dr. Krishnan says it's important to know that having dense breasts doesn't necessarily mean you have breast cancer. However, having denser breast tissue may increase your risk for cancer. It also makes it more difficult for your doctors to spot cancer with just a simple mammogram. 

"When someone has dense breasts like I said, it's hard to find cancer," said Dr. Krishnan. "So there are models, other types of imaging that could pick up cancer, that a mammogram can not."

Dr. Krishnan says an annual mammogram screening should be the first step. If you find you have dense breasts, you have the option to get additional screening in the form of a breast ultrasound or breast MRI. 

Kellie Leasure, of Cedar Falls, who's been battling cancer for five years now, says this law will provide women with vital information.

"This is such a blessing that Iowa finally adopted this bill, because women need to know it's your body," said Leasure. "Because if you don't know-how would you think to ask for additional diagnostic testing?"

Leasure has metastatic breast cancer, but her breast cancer went undiagnosed for a while. 

While she was pregnant with her daughter Chelsea, Leasure went in to see her doctor after her gut was telling her it was more than the pregnancy making her sick. 

"I had a little bit of a lump, but they said it was nothing to worry about," said Leasure. 

A year later, Leasure was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. 

"I trusted the radiology reports," said Leasure. "I mean I was doing my job as the patient going in, getting my mammograms."

A key piece of information missing was her breast density, what Leasure says would have been the difference in detecting her breast cancer early on. Research shows women with dense breasts have a higher rate of cancer. 

"Everybody knows about breast cancer, it's like an epidemic," said Leasure. "What I want to bring awareness to is that they're are diagnostic tests out there to help us find this disease early and help us beat it. Because you can beat it, if found early."

The American College of Radiology recommends women over the age of 40 should be getting a yearly mammogram. Dr. Krishnan says if you have a family history of breast cancer, you could benefit from starting testing earlier. 

"We want to empower the women, the patient, to decide for herself," said Dr. Krishnan. "So if she knows she has dense breasts she can come and ask for supplemental screening and increase the chance of finding any cancer if there was."

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women. 

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