SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate Business and Labor Committee on Monday advanced a bill requiring health care providers to warn women with dense breast tissue that it may be difficult for a mammogram to sufficiently screen them for the possibility of cancer.
HB258 would require a statement telling the patient that "dense breast tissue can make it more difficult to fully and accurately evaluate your mammogram and detect early signs of cancer in the breast."
"This information is being provided to inform and encourage you to discuss your dense breast tissue and other breast cancer risk factors with your health care provider," the required statement would say. "Together, you can decide what may be best for you."
However, the bill leaves out one phrase in the required statement, compared with its original iteration earlier this legislative session: "You might benefit from additional professionally recognized forms of cancer screening examinations, depending on your personal risk factors and family history."
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said the updated bill "took the place of an earlier (version) where it was a little more specific about other forms of cancer screening examinations.
"This one made it broader for the discretion of the health care provider in consultation with the patient," the sponsor told the committee.
Christensen said the bill is designed to be a simple requirement ensuring women are kept informed about the limitations of the test they underwent.
He explained that as many as half of all women have dense breast tissue, but the large majority of women are unaware that their dense breast tissue can in some cases prevent a mammogram from detecting a cancer that is present, or even know what their breast density is.
Christensen said he has heard from several breast cancer patients with dense tissue that their health care providers never clearly communicated to them that they were at heightened risk of receiving a false negative from their mammogram.
Colette Moser, a breast cancer survivor who beat the disease in 2011, told the committee she faithfully received her mammogram screenings for more than 15 years but that it wasn't until she detected something in herself and got a nonroutine test that she was told that "my mammograms are … hard to read."
For years, she said, the only communication she received from her medical providers was all "in very fine print."1 comment on this story
"My doctors and radiologists knew of my density but never shared this information, nor did they explain to me that a mammogram is ill-suited to detect early signs of cancer in my dense tissue," Moser said. "I had no idea there were other ways to screen."
Moser urged the committee to support HB258, saying "it will literally be a lifesaver."
Christensen's bill also received the support of the Huntsman Cancer Institute earlier this legislative session.
The committee voted unanimously to favorably recommend the bill to the full Senate for consideration. HB258 was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month by a 39-31 vote.