New law aims to improve breast cancer detection

Beginning July 1, women getting mammograms will learn whether they have dense breast tissue that could hide cancer. This is due to recent legislation that addresses the test’s failure to detect certain cancers in women with dense breast tissue.

Under the new law, if radiologists conducting mammograms find dense breast tissue, they must send the patient a letter noting that fact – and that dense breast tissue can hide cancer. The letter will urge women to talk to their physicians about the matter.

The new “patient inform” law resulted from efforts by a breast cancer survivor, Cathryn Tatusko of Fairfax County, with support from an aptly named national awareness organization called Are You Dense.

JoAnn Pushkin, co-founder of Are You Dense, said she was pleased that Virginia has enacted the new law.

“I am thrilled that women of Virginia will join those in Connecticut and Texas in receiving this life-saving information about their breast health,” Pushkin said.

During its 2012 session, the General Assembly approved two identical measures addressing the issue: Senate Bill 544, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke; and House Bill 83, introduced by Delegate Robert Orrock, R-Thornburg. Both bills passed unanimously, and Gov. Bob McDonnell signed them into law.

Currently, after a woman gets a mammogram, her referring physician receives a report from her radiologist with a statement on her breast density. However, the patient receives a letter without medical jargon that simply says whether abnormalities were detected. Women can ask for the more detailed report, but most don’t.

Studies also show that only one in 10 women learn about breast density from their doctors.

Most women have a combination of dense and fatty breast tissue. On a mammogram, dense tissue appears white and fatty tissue appears gray.

Cancers also show up as white on a mammogram. As a result, they can be hidden by dense tissue. In contrast, against fatty tissue, cancers stand out and can be more readily spotted.

Thus, women who have very dense breast tissue have a greater risk that their cancer could be overlooked. According to many studies, cancers can be obscured more than 40 percent of the time, depending on the degree of breast density.

Tatusko approached Orrock and asked him to propose the legislation. She did so after her own ordeal with breast cancer.

Tatusko’s dense breast tissue had masked the large tumor on the yearly mammogram she had just five months before being diagnosed with breast cancer. Even a mammogram she received the day of her diagnosis failed to show the advanced-stage cancer. As of February, Tatusko is considered cancer-free.

Are You Dense was founded by another breast cancer survivor, Nancy Cappello of Connecticut. Cappello persuaded her home state to pass a “patient inform” law in 2009, and she helped women in Texas pass legislation that same year. Fourteen states besides Virginia considered such proposals this year. A federal bill is also pending.
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Kaine, McEachin to host Service Academy Day


Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) will co-host their Service Academy Day to educate high school students about the service academy nominations process, an honor awarded by members of Congress for students interested in attending a service academy after high school.

The event will take place Saturday, Sept. 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Matoaca High School, 17700 Longhouse Lane, Chesterfield 23838. It will provide an opportunity for high school students and parents to learn about the nation’s military academies, a career in military service and the nominations process. > Read more.

Red Cross, Sport Clips offer free haircuts to blood donors


The American Red Cross and Sport Clips are partnering to provide free haircuts to anyone who donates blood or platelets to the Red Cross during September.

Blood donors of all blood types, especially type O negative and O positive, are urgently needed to replenish the blood supply following a critical summer blood shortage. > Read more.

Back to work


Above, Mills Godwin football player John Dudley cools down with a splash of water during a break from practice earlier this month. High school football teams throughout the county and region are continuing their summer practices in anticipation of the start of their seasons later this month. > Read more.

McEachin to host Henrico town hall meeting


U.S. Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-4th District) will host a town hall meeting Aug. 29 at the Eastern Government Center, 3820 Nine Mile Road in Henrico. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public. McEachin will address issues raised by attendees and provide details about services available through his office. > Read more.

Nonprofit awards $38k in book scholarships


The KLM Scholarship Foundation awarded more than $38,000 in book scholarships to 36 students during its 2017 Book Scholarship Awards Ceremony at Linwood Holton Elementary School in Richmond Aug. 5. The students will attend 14 Virginia colleges in the fall. Each has excelled academically, maintaining a 3.0 GPA or better, while demonstrating strong community leadership qualities.

WWBT/NBC12 Raycom Media Vice President and General Manager Kym Grinnage was the guest speaker. > Read more.

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The Summer Nature Series at Three Lakes Nature Center, 400 Sausiluta Dr., continues with “Ssslither – Snakes” from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Nature center staff will open the classroom doors to visitors and share a variety of items from the nature collections. Staff will be on hand to present information and answer questions. Topics rotate throughout the summer months. No registration required. For details, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Full text

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