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FDA plans new regulations on mammograms in effort to help women with dense breasts

FDA adding breast cancer screening regulations
Breast density awareness is key in early cancer detection 02:42

Mammograms can sometimes fail to detect tumors in women who have a higher breast density. As a result, the FDA said it's planning new regulations for informing women about their tissue type and screening options.

Dr. Sarah Friedewald, the chief of breast imaging at Northwestern Medicine, explains that denser breasts have less fat and more tissue. It can be more difficult to spot tumors in dense tissue in mammograms, since both show up as white in the images.

"About 40[%] to 50% of the women in the country actually have dense breast tissue. It just makes it a little bit harder for us to find cancer on the mammogram," Friedewald said.

For one of Friedewald's patients, she said that they needed additional scans, an ultrasound and an MRI to detect a large cancerous tumor due to her breast density.

In the U.S., 38 states now require patients to be notified about breast density, according to

"If the FDA passes this ruling, all the United States will have this legislative piece mandating that all women in the US are informed of their tissue type (whether they have dense breasts) so they can be proactive in seeking additional screening that may be necessary to find their cancer at an early stage," said Dr. Georgia Spear, Chief, Department of Breast Imaging, Northshore University Hospital, adding that this would be, "amazing and so necessary." 

If you're planning to get a mammogram, it's important to ask doctors about your tissue type. If additional tests are needed, make sure to get a medical order and check if your insurance company requires pre-approval and covers the cost.

More tests can cost anywhere between a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

Eve Feinberg, 48, gets screened for breast cancer every year due to her aunts being diagnosed at a young age. She said she pays around $2,000 out of pocket each year for an MRI after insurance coverage.

She insists, though, that it's worth it.

"Just to know that if something is detected, it will be detected at an early stage," Feinberg said.

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