Controversial legislation gives women clearer mammogram info

Posted at 4:23 PM, Jun 22, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-22 16:23:28-04

NEW YORK (CBS News) - Some state governments are muscling into the battle against breast cancer.

In fact, New York became the latest to approve controversial legislation that will provide women with clear information about the results of their mammograms.

Hallie Leighton was 39 when doctors told her she had breast cancer and it was already stage four.

"Since there was evidence it spread to other parts of my body I was now incurable," said Leighton. "They said you're going to be on treatment for the rest of your life.

With a family history for breast cancer, Leighton started mammograms at 35. The tests didn`t show cancer, but her doctor didn`t tell Leighton that her breasts were dense, which makes the xray difficult to read.

Instead of sending her for additional testing such as ultrasound or MRI, the doctor never brought it up.

And Leighton's case isn't that unusual. The National Cancer Institute says mammograms miss up to 20-percent of breast cancers.

Which is why New York's legislature just passed a bill requiring health care providers to notify women if their breasts are dense so they can discuss other options with their doctors.

The medical community is mostly opposed, concerned the legislation could lead to unnecessary testing.

However, Dr. Freya Schnabel says it is important for doctors and patients to know all the facts.

"Knowledge about density coupled with risk assessment should be part of the conversation about how each woman should be screened for breast cancer," said Schnabel, NYU Langone Medical Center's Director of Breast Surgery.

Leighton didn't get that opportunity.

"I think I get the most emotional when I think about my mother," said Leighton. "I don't want my mother to mourn me. I can't think about that."

Her doctors say she has a one-in-six chance of living three years. They`re trying to find a treatment to help beat those odds.