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FDA updates mammography regulations to require breast density report

According to data, nearly half of women over 40 in the U.S. have dense breast tissue.

MINNEAPOLIS — Getting screened early for breast cancer can help reduce risks and save lives. 

"All women 25 years or older should have a breast cancer or breast cancer history taken to figure out if they should be screening early," said Dr. Tim Emory, the director of breast imaging at M Health Fairview and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

To help prevent, detect and treat breast cancer, the FDA recently amended regulations issued under the Mammography Quality Standards Act of 1992, requiring facilities to notify patients about the density of their breasts.

Dr. Emory says it's just one way to measure risks. 

"Breast density is a term related to mammography and anything other than dense is considered fat," he said. "If you have dense breast tissue, you are more likely to get breast cancer."

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia require some level of breast density notification after a mammogram. 

Dr. Emory says the goal is to detect cancer sooner. 

"If you have a risk history you're more likely to have breast cancer, but we're more likely to see breast cancer for people in average risk," he said. "And women in their 40's, if we find it early, they may need less treatment."

According to data from the National Cancer Institute, nearly half of women over 40 in the U.S. have dense breast tissue. Further, the American Cancer Society estimates more than 43,700 women will die from breast cancer this year, and Black women in particular are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age and to die from the disease

That's why doctors are urging all women to get tested early to help prevent the risks. 

"The women's lives you save, certainly think it's worth it," he said, regarding testing early.


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