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State senator pushes bill on breast cancer screening

March 28, 2012 | 12:28 pm


State Sen. Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto) is resurrecting a bill to strengthen breast cancer screenings after it was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

The legislation would require patients to be told if they have dense breast tissue, which increases risk for breast cancer and makes it more difficult to detect. A two-sentence notification would be included in the regular mammogram report.

But Brown vetoed the bill in October and suggested the notification could cause "unnecessary anxiety" and needs to “educate more than prescribe.”

“It was one of the most disappointing vetoes I’ve received in more than a decade in the capitol,” Simitian said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

He said he was working with the governor’s office to find the right language for the notification to include in the bill, SB1538.

Judy Dean, a diagnostic radiologist who is helping Simitian push the bill, said the governor’s concerns are unfounded, adding that she always notifies women when they have dense breast tissue.

“Patients have not been alarmed by getting these kinds of notices,” she said. “It just hasn’t been a problem.”

[Updated 2:38 p.m.: Brown told reporters that he's open to a revised version of the bill.

"I think they’re going to change it a little bit, the warning... I think there’s a way to get there," he said.]

The bill was originally suggested to Simitian by a breast cancer survivor, who worked with an advocacy group funded in part by U-Systems, a California company that sells screening equipment. Simitian said Wednesday that companies that could profit from the bill did not have any role in devising it.

The California Medical Assn. has raised concerns about the bill, calling it vague and unnecessarily alarming.

"There is not yet clarity on what 'dense breasts' mean and what should be done clinically," the association said. "To suggest women may need additional screening without this medical clarity is not suitable for inclusion in a state mandate."

It also said the bill could increase liability for physicians who decide patients' breasts are not dense enough to warrant notification.

PHOTO: A radiologist examines mammograms. CREDIT: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press


Breast density information

Breast density linked to cancer risk

Brown vetoes bill to warn women of breast tissue

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Twitter: @chrismegerian