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November 20, 2012

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Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) was recently honored by a breast cancer advocacy group for championing legislation to improve breast cancer detection in women with dense breast tissue.

Simitian was named the Are You Dense? Champion of “Exposing the Secret” for his work authoring Senate Bill 1538. Signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September, SB 1538 requires that following a mammogram, women with dense breast tissue be informed of the following:

• That they have dense breast tissue;
• That dense breast tissue can make it harder to evaluate the results of a mammogram;
• That it is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer;
• That information about breast density is given to discuss with their doctor; and
• That a range of screening options are available.

An estimated 40 percent of women who have mammograms have dense breast tissue. Because dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram, and cancer also appears white, it can be difficult to see the cancer.

The bill makes California just the fifth state with a breast density notification law (following Connecticut, Texas, Virginia and New York.) SB 1538 will take effect April 1, 2013.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to be recognized for this legislation,” said Simitian. “But it’s even more gratifying to know that because of our efforts, lives will be saved. This bill is about a patient’s right to know. Patients with dense breast tissue need to know that it can hide a cancer, and that additional screening options are available. Early detection is the key.”

The award was presented to Simitian by Amy Colton, a Santa Cruz resident, nurse and breast cancer survivor who suggested the bill idea in 2011 in Simitian’s “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. Colton was never informed of her breast density during years of routine mammograms, and only discovered that she had dense breasts after completing her treatment for cancer.

Colton presented the award on behalf of the board of directors of Are You Dense, Inc., an advocacy organization dedicated to informing the public about dense breast tissue and its impact on early detection.

“Senator Simitian is a true champion in every sense of the word, and so deserving of this award. He took on this issue because he believes in the fundamental right of women to be informed of pertinent health information about their own physiology,” said Colton. “Despite last year’s veto, he did not give up and the women of California now have him to thank for opening the door to early detection of breast cancer for women with dense breast tissue. Having worked side-by-side with him for the past two years, I witnessed his heartfelt desire to move this bill forward because of its potential to save lives. It was a monumental feat that demonstrates his deep commitment to the health and welfare of his constituents.”

“This award recognizes the incredible work Senator Simitian did carrying the breast density inform bill across the finish line,” said Dr. Nancy Cappello, president and founder of Are you Dense, Inc. “The bill faced so many hurdles, but in the end, it was a major victory for early detection for California women. Innumerable number of women and their families will benefit from this life-saving legislation.”

A similar Simitian bill was vetoed by Governor Brown in 2011. Since Brown’s veto last year, New York and Virginia have joined the roster of states with breast density notification laws, and two separate studies from the first year of a similar law’s implementation in Connecticut have shown a 100 percent increase in breast cancer detection rates in women with dense breast tissue who had supplementary screenings.

For more information about SB 1538, visit For more information about dense breast tissue, visit