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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   
May 29, 2012

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Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Phil Yost (650) 688-6834 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – A bill to improve breast cancer detection in women with dense breast tissue passed unanimously out of the State Senate today. Senate Bill 1538, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), would require that following a mammogram, women with dense breast tissue be informed that:

• They have dense breast tissue;
• Dense breast tissue can obscure abnormalities (ie, cancer) on a mammogram; and that
• They may wish to discuss the potential value of additional screening(s) with their doctors.

The vote was 39-0. The bill now heads to the Assembly.

Despite broad bipartisan support, a similar bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown last year. Since the veto, Virginia has 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.

“My hope is that we can get to ‘yes’ this year and that we can begin saving lives as soon as possible,” Simitian said. “This bill simply requires that information that is already shared between doctors also be shared with a patient herself. This is about a patient’s right to know. It is about giving patients the information they need to be effective advocates for their own health.”

Amy Colton, a Santa Cruz resident, registered nurse and cancer survivor, suggested the idea for the bill in 2011 in Simitian’s annual “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 breast cancer.

Because dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram, and cancer also appears white, it can be difficult to see the cancer. A January 2011 study by the Mayo Clinic found that in women with dense breast tissue, 75 percent of cancer is missed by mammography alone.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that one in eight women will develop breast cancer. The risk for women with extremely dense breast tissue is five times greater than the risk for women with low breast density. Yet the overwhelming majority of women are unaware of their own breast density.

Similar legislation has already passed in Connecticut, Texas and Virginia. Congress and 15 states have related legislation pending.

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