Listen up, ladies: The Food and Drug Administration just proposed its first update to mammogram guidelines (aka the mammography Quality Standards Act) in 20 years.
The proposed change to mammogram best practices will emphasize the importance of breast density in relation to early detection. Why? Well, breast density can be a key factor in breast cancer detection. Nearly half of women over 40 have dense breasts, and these women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer—additionally, it may be more difficult to spot breast cancer on a mammogram when a woman has dense breasts, according to the National Cancer Institute. Establishing a uniform reporting procedure will make sure every woman knows where she stands.
For those unfamiliar with what the heck breast density is, it’s the amount of glandular tissue and connective tissue in relation to the amount of fatty breast tissue your breasts have. So, those with dense gals have comparatively high levels of glandular tissue and connective tissue and low amounts of fatty tissue, says the Mayo Clinic.
For reference, only 36 percent of women have even discussed breast density with their doctor, according to data gathered by Hologic, Inc. So if you’ve never heard this term before, you’re not alone. In fact, that’s exactly why the FDA wants to make this change.
If and when the new proposal goes into effect, a density assessment will be incorporated into all mammogram summary letters delivered to patients and included in their medical files. This new initiative won’t only nail down a standardized reporting system, but it will also establish nationwide density categories (right now, they differ from state to state).
We can all agree mammograms are no fun, but thanks to this proposal, the potential for early detection is getting even better.