New FDA guidelines suggest women with dense breasts get notified. Some experts believe these women may need more than just a traditional mammogram.
Erin Hodge of Claremont never misses her yearly mammogram. Last year, the 54-year-old's diligence paid off.
"They found something," she said, "And my breast tissue is very dense so it's very hard to find."
Dr. Johnson Lightfoote with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center said, "One of the problems with dense breasts is that it may obscure breast cancer."
Dense breasts have a four- to five-fold higher risk of developing cancer. Some doctors recommend these women undergo additional imaging.
"That additional screening method could be ultrasound or tomosynthesis," Lightfoote said.
Fortunately for Hodge, tomosynthesis or 3D mammography is what she always gets. It's the only type provided at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. Lightfoote said this technology made Hodge's tumor easier to see.
"It increases the cancer detection rate and decreases the call back rate," he said.
Now for the first time in 20 years, the FDA has proposed changes to its mammography standards. It includes giving patients notification about their breast density. California is one of dozens of states already providing this information to women.
"They simply recommend that the woman have a discussion with her physician and that the woman consider additional screening methods," Lightfoote said.
Additional screening tests aren't always covered by insurance, so during the months of April and October, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center is offering 3D mammography for $50.
"This is exactly the same mammogram. It's the same high quality 3D mammogram with digital high-resolution and computer-assisted detection that we perform for insurance patients," Lightfoote added.
Screening mammograms are the only imaging studies where you can self refer, meaning you don't need insurance and you don't need a doctor's order.
Hodge said, "if you wait too long you don't know what' going to happen."
After a lumpectomy and a few weeks of radiation, Hodge is cancer free.
She said, "Just get it done. Make your appointment and it doesn't hurt."
Pomona hospital offers low-cost 3D mammography geared toward women with dense breasts
CIRCLE OF HEALTH