Northern Arizona Radiology Notifies Women

doctor happy to see patient

Of Breast Density ahead of New Law

Northern Arizona Radiology (NAR), the first center in the region to notify women about breast density and their options for further screening, is prepared for the new Arizona breast density law (SB 1225) that takes effect October 1, 2014.

“We looked at the issue of breast density in 2013, and based on the evidence we determined it was important to move forward with notification to better inform and educate our patients,” said Northern Arizona Radiologist Stephen V. Ward, M.D. “It turned out to be a wise decision.”

Breast density increases the risk of breast cancer and makes it more difficult to detect by traditional mammography, where cancer may appear white on a white (dense tissue) background. Clinical studies have shown that women in the highest dense-breast category established by the American College of Radiology (ACR) are four to six times more likely to get breast cancer compared to women with low breast density

According to the ACR, about 40 percent of all U.S. women — approximately 15 million — have dense breasts. Radiologists have routinely reported breast density to patients’ referring physician for years. However, up until recently, it has not been a part of the standard results letter that women receive if their mammogram is negative.

“Mammography remains the gold standard, but it still misses a significant number of cancers in women with dense breasts,” said Ward. “This means that some women with normal mammograms end up having cancer that is not found until later, when it’s larger and less treatable.”

Ward explained that having dense breasts plus one or more additional risk factors for breast cancer may justify the need for supplemental screening after mammography. Supplemental screening at NAR includes breast ultrasound, breast MRI and breast specific gamma imaging (BSGI), a form of nuclear imaging with a specialized camera and tracer injection. When used in conjunction with mammography, such tests may find hidden cancer, leading to improved early detection.

Northern Arizona Radiology offers state-of-the-art medical imaging in a comfortable, convenient location with same-day scheduling available for most exams. All exams are interpreted locally by experienced, board-certified radiologists who work closely with referring providers, ensuring the highest quality care at a fraction of the cost of hospital-based exams. For more information, call Northern Arizona Radiology at 928-773-2515 or visit www.northernarizonaradiology.com.

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