Town Square

Post a New Topic

Breast cancer detection bill passes Legislature

Original post made on Sep 13, 2011

A new breast cancer detection bill authored by State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, passed the California Legislature Monday, requiring medical professionals to inform their patients that dense breast tissue could mask cancer when they have a mammogram.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 1:50 PM

Comments (6)

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Castro City
on Sep 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm

OK, I admit that this is a step in the right direction.
But, it is a tiny, pidling shuffling step!
Insurance only covers mamograms, despite the fact that (according to this article) are only useful for about half the women. Despite the fact that medical science is continuing to develop MUCH BETTER screening methods, these are rarely covered by insurance. So, while this bill is a good thing, I'm afraid that in my case it is just going to add to the fear & uncertainty in my life by not knowing if the mamogram is accurate or not.

Like this comment
Posted by Medical QA Guy
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm

The headline struck me as odd; why not "mammogram disclosure bill"? The relevant numbers in the story tell us that cancer detection via mammogram is unlikely for over half of women, those with dense breast tissue (DBT). Their readings should be labelled as "inconclusive" given that the false-negative rate is an overwhelming 75%. Clearly all the statistics are different for DBT women. A little algebra teases them apart from the fortunate few (or less than half) non-DBT women. Approximating the incidence of DBT as 1/2, the 1 in 8 overall BC rate would break down to only 1 in 24 non-DBT, along with 5 in 24 (over 1 in 5) DBT women, having cancer at some time. I'd like to apply Bayes' formula to the subgroup of women with dense breast tissue (despite the fact they probably shouldn't trust their mammograms) to figure out their actual probability of cancer given a "positive" mammography verdict: With DBT, prob of a positive mammogram given (previously undetected) cancer is (only) M|C = 1/4 and Bayes tells us C|M = (M|C) C / M = (1/4) * (5/24) / M where M is prob of a positive mammogram, which is unfortunately not given (for either subgroup) but is no more than 1, so the probability of cancer given a positive, dense-tissue mammogram is at least 5/96 or 1 in 19. We already knew their "prior" probability was 5 in 24. So if anything, a mammogram, for most women (those with DBT), would create a false sense of assurance-- hence the need for a clear, specific disclosure! What's most clearly needed is a test for early-stage breast cancer that produces meaningful results for the vast majority of women. Maybe a biochemical assay.

Like this comment
Posted by Medical QA Guy
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm

...and/or ultrasound...? By the way, the cancer incidence rates (5/24 with DBT and 1/24 without) I figured were lifetime totals, so my result for C|M (probability of cancer given a positive mammogram, ever) for those with DBT would also be cumulative. Depending on how the clinician calibrates her "positive" rate M (which should be higher for DBT), then C|M, the probability of a patient with DBT ever having breast cancer, given that she ever has a positive mammogram, could be between 25% (the "ideal" case, for M = 5/24)and 42% (the "naive" case, for M normalized to equal the total cancer rate of 1/8). My point is, it's really hard for a patient with DBT to figure her actual odds.

At least, it's hard for me. Which could help explain my unemployment.

Like this comment
Posted by Kimwhit
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2011 at 10:51 am

I couldnt say it better than Timothy Boyer though I have been outspoken and aggressively pursing the passage of this legislation as a women and an advocate for patient awareness and empowerment:

The controversy of Senate Bill 179 brings to light two points: The first is that a mammogram as a sole diagnostic tool is insufficient toward protecting 40% of the women in the United States. Science needs to come up with better and affordable diagnostic tools.

The second point is that it is evident that the medical field continues to foster a paternalistic attitude toward women’s rights and their need to know. Yes, information can cause anxiety, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Information can also relieve anxiety and lead to positive results. To withhold information from a patient and charge them for a test that may not be doing what the patient is led to believe is unconscionable. Perhaps that is the real hidden cancer.

his piece is well sighted if you want to read more:Web Link

Medical QA guy I would like to speak with you - I am at

Like this comment
Posted by kimwhit
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2011 at 11:18 am

If you support Senate Bill 791 (was 173) you can contact Governor Brown's office - it WILL make a difference:
Phone the Governor’s office at (916)445-2841 and say:
“My name is _________ and I am a resident of __________, California. I’m calling to urge Governor Brown to sign SB 791, the breast density inform bill into law.”
Click on this link: Web Link
On the lower half of the page you will see “Email the Governor”. Under the “Please choose your subject” drop down menu, choose “Other”. Check the box if you want a reply
Click on the “Submit” button to go to the next screen. Where it says “Your position” click on “Pro”. In the Subject field type “SB 791”
Copy & paste the message below (or write your own message) in the “Write your email” box and sign your name at the bottom of the message.

You can use this sample message or create your own personal message:

Dear Governor Brown,

I am writing to urge your signature on Senator Joe Simitian’s SB 791 (the breast density inform bill). SB 791 will provide the 40% of all women who have dense breast tissue an increased opportunity for the early detection of breast cancer. This bill arrives at your desk not only with overwhelming support from California constituents, but with a nearly unanimous show of bi-partisan support from the California legislature, continuing the proud tradition of the people of the State of California in promoting the rights of women to be proactive partners in their own healthcare.

Recognizing your own equally long commitment to women’s health, and the need to make further inroads against the devastation that continues to be caused to families and communities by the 4,000 California women who will die of breast cancer in 2011 and the over 25,000 Californians that will be diagnosed with the disease in 2011, I urge you to sign SB 791 into law.

There is hardly a family or household which has not been touched in some way by this tragedy. The best chance for successful treatment and survival of this terrible disease is early detection. However, under the current practice, for women with dense breast tissue the diagnosis comes at a very late stage. Your signature will ensure that patients have a critical piece of information about their own health that will literally save lives.


Like this comment
Posted by kimwhit
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2011 at 11:20 am

Timothy's article is well cited!!!! not well sighted.....sorry.....tired

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Food Party! 420
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,611 views

What Are Your Gifts that Must Be Shared?
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 688 views


2017 guide to summer camps

Looking for something for the kids to do this summer, learn something new and have fun? The 2017 Summer Camp Guide features local camps for all ages and interests.

Find Camps Here