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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Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


It’s going to be a cold weekend so if you’re headed out to the James River Parade of Lights or the Richmond Road Runners Club Toy Run 5K in Innsbrook, you’d better bundle up! If you’re looking for some indoor ways to celebrate the holidays, check out Three-Penny Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story for Christmas” or “To Drive the Cold Winter Away: An Irish Celebration of the Returning Light” at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Glen Allen. Also this weekend – the Henrico Theatre will show the holiday classic “Home Alone." For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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Three Lakes Nature Center will offer “Mini Reindeer Moss Gardens” for ages 8-10 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Keeping a terrarium is a great way to grow your very own miniature forest indoors. This mini garden will feature moss, other moss varieties, plus a little surprise. Cost is $10. To register, call 652-1433. Full text

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