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Veto Stops CA Breast Density Notification Bill

October 10, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging, Medical Ethics, Practice Management
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California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have required that women be told if a mammogram reveals they have dense breasts.

In his veto message, Brown zeroed in on the specific language of the required notification. As we reported last month, the bill would have added the following two sentences to the federally required letter that a radiologist must send a patient after performing a mammogram:

“Because your mammogram demonstrates that you have dense breast tissue, which could hide small abnormalities, you might benefit from supplementary screening tests, depending on your individual risk factors. A report of your mammography results, which contains information about your breast density, has been sent to your physician’s office and you should contact your physician if you have any questions or concerns about this notice.”

You can access the complete bill here.

In the veto message, Brown said he talked to many people, “including doctors I respect,” about the words of the notification. “Were they a path to greater knowledge or unnecessary anxiety?”

He concluded that informing women if they have dense breasts was “likely” a good idea, but that telling them they might want to seek additional screening was problematic:

If the state must mandate a notice about breast density—and I am not certain it should—such a notice must be more carefully crafted, with words that educate more than they prescribe.

The governor announced the veto yesterday, over the weekend, so the various parties that have an interest in the issue, including the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Joe Simitian, have not yet had a chance to comment.

The California Radiological Association and the California Medical Association, among other medical groups, had opposed the bill for various reasons, including the “unnecessary anxiety” issue that the governor raised.

In response, many women have said, with varying degrees of exasperation and anger, that they can be trusted to handle important medical information, thank you very much. Simitian introduced the bill at the request of Amy Colton, a registered nurse with dense breast tissue who two years ago was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer despite having had “all-clear” annual mammograms.

Colton, who has received successful treatment, summed up her argument succinctly: “I’m the patient. It’s my body.”

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Read on our Facebook page about another controversial bill that Governor Brown signed into law.

Related seminar: Breast Imaging and Digital Mammography

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3 Responses to “Veto Stops CA Breast Density Notification Bill”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Virginia May Require Breast Density Notification on February 10th, 2012 at 10:08 am

    […] Connecticut and Texas are the only states that currently mandate notification about breast density after mammograms. Several other states are considering such legislation; imagingBiz has a rundown here. We’ve reported on the legislative effort under way in Utah and on last year’s veto of a California bill. […]

  2. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » New York Requires Dense Breast Notification on July 24th, 2012 at 10:38 am

    […] concerns when he vetoed a similar bill passed by the California Legislature; see our story about it here. The California Radiological Society and the California Medical Association had opposed the bill, […]

  3. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » California Mandates Dense-Breast Notification on September 25th, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    […] California has become the fifth state to require that mammography patients be informed if they have dense breasts. Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a bill that included changes he had suggested after vetoing a similar bill last year. […]