WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – A new law in New York this year requires women to be notified if mammogram tests reveal dense breast tissue. Dr. Angela Keleher, Director of Breast Surgery at Health Quest Cancer Care (Northern Dutchess Hospital, Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Putnam Hospital Center), urges women to discuss findings with their physician, who may want to take additional images.
“Women with dense breast tissue have a lifetime risk of breast cancer three to four times higher than women who do not have dense breasts,’’ Dr. Keleher said. “Because dense breast tissue is more difficult for us to see through clearly, we want to be sure we are not missing signs of breast cancer.”
A story in The New York Times last year said laws have been passed in Connecticut, Texas, Virginia and California requiring women be notified that they have dense breast tissue. The issue came to the forefront in Connecticut when mammograms missed cancer of a patient, and she was not told she had dense breast tissue until doctors found advanced cancer.
Dr. Keleher said physicians may recommend yearly ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in addition to yearly mammograms.
“Every woman deserves a realistic understanding of her risk for breast cancer,’’ Dr. Keleher said. “We use accredited technology to calculate a woman’s risk based on a number of factors. This concrete data not only helps us determine the most appropriate tests going forward but can also ease patients’ minds.”
Each year in New York, more than 14,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and almost 2,700 die from the disease, according to a report from the New York State Department of Health. Factors that increase risk for developing breast cancer include age, family history, genetics and personal history.
Earlier this year, Keleher received a $15,500 research grant when she was named a “Breast Cancer Champion by Yoplait” and the American Cancer Society. She plans to use the grant to study the potential benefits of massage before breast surgery.
“We believe that if people have a good attitude about surgery, they are going to have better outcomes,’’ Dr. Keleher said. “If something as simple as a massage can not only help people through this scary process, but also aid in their recovery, that’s a win-win.”