Feature | April 01, 2015 | Melinda Taschetta-Millane

Breast Density Remains an Issue

It’s been a busy year in women’s health, and the topic of breast density remains on the forefront. To date, 21 states have enacted the breast density inform law, which requires healthcare providers to inform women if they have dense breast tissue. Several other states have also either endorsed the bill, or are currently working on it.  

During the recent 25th Annual Interdisciplinary Breast Center Conference (NCoBC 2015) in Las Vegas, sponsored by the National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC), I sat down with NCBC President Gary Levine, M.D., to discuss some of the trends and advancements that have taken place this past year. 

“A lot of the efforts have been generated by the breast density legislation that is happening throughout the United States,” said Levine. “States are enacting legislation that dictates that the radiologist must inform a woman regarding her breast density. We see this as very valuable in that women should be informed. However, we need to develop protocols and put them in place for how to address this.” 

Levine stated that much of this advancement has to do with the new technologies being developed. “Traditional screening mammography, 2-D mammography, has shown that it can decrease the mortality from breast cancer up to 40 percent, but there is a subset of women with dense breast tissue in whom 2-D mammography has limitations. It has trouble seeing through that dense breast tissue in order to see the cancer, so these women need to be aware of that, and we need to offer them supplemental screening technologies,” he explained.

Currently, several methods are available, and several are under development. The most common is 3-D mammography, or digital tomosynthesis, which allows the radiologist to slice through the breast tissue and find the cancer that might otherwise be hidden behind dense breast tissue. Screening the breast with ultrasound is another technology, and is unaffected by breast density which makes it a good supplement to screening with mammography.

“There also are other technologies being introduced and developed, including breast-specific gamma imaging, which is a type of nuclear imaging, CT of the breast, and CAT scans specific for breast imaging,” said Levine. “It is a very exciting time and we hope to be able to improve the screening that we are offering this subset of women.”

However, the ongoing issue remains insurance coverage. “We as physicians are primarily concerned with diagnosing breast cancer early, because we know that translates into survival, but the reality is that if the finances don’t make sense it’s impossible to offer that technology, and hospitals throughout the country are struggling with this,” Levine stressed. “With tomosynthesis, the technology is available and we know that it can find up to 40 percent more invasive cancers in these women with dense breasts, but it has to be paid for. One positive development is that this year Medicare has started a new CPT code, and it has agreed to start paying for digital tomosynthesis. Many of the other third-party payers are dragging their feet, so we are hoping that they follow Medicare’s lead and will start paying for this new valuable technology.” A new code also is in place for whole breast ultrasound screening, and for the first time, providers can get paid for that technology. Most certainly, ITN will keep you abreast of new developments in this area as they develop.

You can watch my interview with Levine, as well as other leading physicians speaking on the topic of women’s health, on ITN’s video channel

Related Content

In a demonstration on the exhibit floor of the SBI symposium, Koios software identified suspicious lesions in ultrasound images

In a demonstration on the exhibit floor of the SBI symposium, Koios software identified suspicious lesions in ultrasound images. Photo by Greg Freiherr

Feature | Artificial Intelligence | April 19, 2019 | By Greg Freiherr
Commercial efforts to develop...
Videos | Breast Imaging | April 18, 2019
In a keynote lecture at the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI)/American College of Radiology (ACR) 2019 Symposium, ...
Fatty tissue and breast density may be considered in the context of many factors that affect the occurrence and detection of breast cancer

Fatty tissue and breast density may be considered in the context of many factors that affect the occurrence and detection of breast cancer. Permission to publish provided by DenseBreast-info.org

Feature | Breast Imaging | April 18, 2019 | By Greg Freiherr
When planning a screening program to detect the early signs of breast cancer, age is a major consideration.
iCAD Appoints Stacey Stevens as President
News | Radiology Business | April 16, 2019
iCAD Inc. recently announced that Stacey Stevens has been named president. As president, Stevens will have expanded...
compressed breast during mammography.
360 Photos | 360 View Photos | April 16, 2019
A 360 view of a simulated breast compression for a...
A smart algorithm has been trained on a neural network to recognize the appearance of breast cancer in MR images

A smart algorithm has been trained on a neural network to recognize the appearance of breast cancer in MR images. The algorithm, described at the SBI/ACR Breast Imaging Symposium, used “Deep Learning,“ a form of machine learning, which is a type of artificial intelligence. Graphic courtesy of Sarah Eskreis-Winkler, M.D.

Feature | Artificial Intelligence | April 12, 2019 | By Greg Freiherr
The use of smart algorithms has the potential to make healthcare more efficient.
This image depicts ABUS images with QVCAD results

This image depicts ABUS images with QVCAD results.

Feature | Breast Imaging | April 12, 2019
Imaging Technology News spoke with Bob Foley, vice president of sales and marketing of QView Medical, Inc.,
Uterine Fibroid Embolization Safer and as Effective as Surgical Treatment
News | Interventional Radiology | April 05, 2019
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) effectively treats uterine fibroids with fewer post-procedure complications compared...
iCAD Highlighting ProFound AI for Tomosynthesis at 2019 SBI Annual Symposium
News | Computer-Aided Detection Software | April 04, 2019
iCAD announced it will present its latest artificial intelligence (AI) software solution for digital breast...