Women are told to start getting mammograms at 40. What they may not be told is what kind of breast density they have—though that's about to change, thanks to the FDA. It's no small detail: As Dr. Sarah Friedewald, the chief of breast imaging at Northwestern Medicine, tells CBS News, "About 40 to 50% of the women in the country actually have dense breast tissue," and that can make it tougher to detect tumors during a mammogram. That's because dense breasts contain more tissue and less fat; both tissue and tumors appear as white in the mammogram images. Other screening choices, like ultrasounds and MRIs, do a better job of surfacing tumors, an important fact considering women with dense breasts are more at risk for developing breast cancer, reports People.
The FDA aims to publish new requirements under which woman will be informed of which density (low or high) they have and what their screening choices are by the end of this year or early next. The timeline came in a letter sent earlier this month to Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who'd inquired about the status of the proposed rule. The FDA proposed that rule in 2019, has analyzed the comments it received, and indicated it's near the finish line. Under the proposed rule, radiologists would also classify patients as belonging to one of four breast density categories, which would be communicated to the referring health-care provider in the mammogram report. (Read more mammogram stories.)