March 3, 2013

As a late-stage breast cancer patient who pressed Virginia to adopt breast density notification legislation that went into effect July 1, I read the Feb. 25 Health article “Letters about mammograms confuse women they aim to help” with great interest and concern.

I find any suggestion that the lay notification letters are counterproductive to be alarming. It is important to note that for more than a decade federal law has required the letters that women have been receiving after undergoing mammograms.   This law was enacted because not all women were getting results from the referring physicians who received their reports.

I agree with the author that these letters can be improved, but we cannot go backward by giving this information only to referring physicians and hoping that they will adequately communicate the results to patients.

The only answer is to work hard to ensure not only that the lay letters are understandable but that they also convey all material information — which includes breast density. We must use every means available to educate women (and their doctors) about breast health. While the lay letters may not be perfect tools for communicating this information, they are certainly a good start.

Cathryn Tatusko, Annandale

The writer was featured in a Feb. 14, 2012, Post article on passage of the Virginia breast density notification law.