Health Team

Dense breast tissue can call for more scans, higher cost

Posted January 31, 2014
Updated February 6, 2014

North Carolina women may receive a letter after their next mammogram due to a new state law requiring doctors to inform women of their breast tissue type.

Some types of breast tissue require more detailed scans, which can entail paying out of pocket.

“Right now, what the law is requiring is that in the letters that we send to patients, that it reflect the density of their tissue – and the limitations of mammography in that population,” said Dr. Sujata Ghate, a breast imaging radiologist at Duke University School of Medicine. “If they feel like they need additional screening, they may have to pay for it themselves because the law does not require insurance (coverage).”

But mammograms are still the best first line of breast cancer screening, allowing doctors to detect early signs of cancer even in dense breast tissue.

Insurers cover additional scans for women with dense tissue who also have other risk factors, including a previous breast cancer diagnosis, a gene mutation associated with breast cancer or a strong family history of the disease.

Women who delve out of pocket for screenings face risks of false positives and a heightened risk of complications from large numbers of biopsies.

Patients should consult with their doctor to weigh the benefits against the risks.



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