April 11, 2011 – Are You Dense, a non-profit breast cancer organization, has announced a partnership with U-Systems to increase awareness of dense breast tissue and its significance in the early detection of breast cancer. Are You Dense founder Nancy M. Cappello, Ph.D., and U-Systems president and CEO Ron Ho, announced the partnership at a breast density education seminar at U-Systems’ Sunnyvale headquarters.
“Dr. Nancy Cappello has been a leading voice in the national movement for greater awareness of breast density and access to additional imaging tools to improve early detection of cancer in women with dense breasts and we are proud to formally support the organization’s ongoing outreach,” said Ron Ho. “As a direct result of Nancy’s efforts, Connecticut became the first State to require payers to cover screening breast ultrasound for women with dense breast tissue in 2004, and the first to mandate communication of breast density to patients through mammography reports in 2009. Both were landmark bills that have become the model for other states to follow.”
Since the Connecticut legislation passed, comparable bills have been initiated in New York, Florida, Texas and California. Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Ohio are considering legislation for 2011. Other states, such as Missouri and Kansas are actively seeking sponsors for legislative action in 2012. On the federal level, Representatives Steve Israel (N.Y.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) are working on language for a federal bill to ensure that women receive the necessary information on breast density in their mammography reports.
“Being diagnosed with advanced cancer weeks after receiving a ‘normal’ mammography report, I made a pledge as I endured aggressive treatment to change the standard protocols for how breast density information is communicated to women,” Cappello said. “Women across the country, who first heard about their breast density after they received a breast cancer diagnosis at a later stage than necessary, contacted me as they were interested in seeking breast density inform legislation in their state. This led to the formation of the Density Education National Survivors' Effort (D.E.N.S.E.).”
“The generous support of time and resources from U-Systems will allow us to expand our critical outreach efforts with the formation of our new affiliate, Are You Dense Advocacy, Inc., whose mission, along with D.E.N.S.E. is to advocate for and support State and Federal legislative efforts for the communication of breast density information to women. It is time for women with dense breast tissue to have equal access across the nation and beyond to an early breast cancer diagnosis."
According to Cappello, the national push was bolstered recently as Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said that it should be regular practice for doctors to inform women of their breast density. Also, she said that it is important for doctors to discuss with their patients with dense breasts what additional screening tools might be appropriate for them.
A growing body of research demonstrates a strong link between breast density and increased cancer risk. One study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed 35 percent of breast cancer goes undetected by mammography in women with dense breasts as density masks the appearance of tumors. Since both dense breast tissue and cancer appear white on a mammogram, it is difficult to detect cancer when there is increased dense breast tissue. As breast density increases, the accuracy of the mammogram decreases.
U-Systems is also the sponsor of the national SOMO•INSIGHT Clinical Study, which is designed to evaluate whether digital mammography in combination with somo•v ABUS is more sensitive than a routine screening mammogram alone in detecting breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue. More than 13,000 women have participated in the study, which is actively recruiting up to 20,000 women at multiple breast imaging centers nationwide. To date, the study has identified a significant number of mammographically negative breast cancers that were subsequently detected by ABUS.
“Moving forward, we encourage women to talk to their doctor about breast density when they get their annual mammogram,” Cappello said.