Joan Hartley

State Senator

Joan Hartley

Chief Deputy President Pro Tempore

An Independent Voice

March 27, 2023

Sen. Hartley Welcomes FDA Action Supporting Notification and Screening for Risk of Breast Cancer

State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) applauded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration updating its regulations to require mammogram providers across the United States to notify patients about the density of their breasts, which is a determining factor of risk for breast cancer and the ability to detect cancer through mammograms. This federal action to enhance screening and detection for breast cancer originates back to Connecticut, which was the first state in the nation to pass a breast density disclosure law.

Sen. Hartley championed the passage of this 2009 state law after being contacted by Joe Cappello about his wife Nancy’s battle with breast cancer. The married couple – who founded “Are You Dense,” a breast health patient advocacy organization – were invaluable partners in passage of a state law that has saved thousands of lives and encouraged other states to follow Connecticut’s lead in passing similar laws in the years after.

The FDA’s action on breast density notification for patients is coupled with new regulations to make patients more aware of how dense breast tissue affects the accuracy of mammograms and the health risks posed by breast cancer. The updated regulations are expected to be effective in all states by September 2024.

“I’m relieved that the FDA has taken these lifesaving steps on a health issue that impacts all women in Connecticut and across the United States. This new directive will lead to earlier detection of breast cancer and better empower women to work with their health care providers in determining the best actions to protect their health,” said Sen. Hartley. “I’m grateful to Nancy and Joe Cappello for working with me all those years ago to pass the first breast density disclosure law in the nation. Since then, we’ve seen that action reverberate to laws enacted in other states and now, we’ve reached this national benchmark. Countless lives will be saved thanks to the Cappello’s work along with many other advocates and breast cancer survivors that have brought us to this moment.”

These updates in public health regulations are vital to saving lives and reducing delays in diagnosis as about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetimes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, according to the National Cancer Institute, almost half of all women over 40 years old have dense breast tissue, which means a higher risk for breast cancer. The higher risk for cancer associated is compounded by how dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to detect cancer through a mammogram – the best screening and detection method for breast cancer.

The $3 million in state funding would advance phase III of the Naugatuck Industrial Park project by supporting the construction of permanent and temporary access roads. Local, matching funds are envisioned for complementary actions at the site including, but not limited to demolition of remaining foundations, drainage improvements, and mass earthwork/soil management to prepare the site for construction pads.

These collective improvements would enable the ultimate redevelopment of the 86-acre site for light industrial and commercial uses, which has already piqued the attention of several interested parties. On top of spurring private investment and economic development, Naugatuck believes the fully realized regional project could create between 150-450 jobs.

The Community Investment Fund 2030 is a five-year grant program, enacted in the 2021 legislative session, dedicated to fostering economic development in communities that have been historically underserved. Eligible projects under the program include brownfield remediation, small business support programs, and infrastructure.

Dense breast tissue refers to how a patient’s breasts are more composed of fibroglandular tissue than fatty tissue. Both fibroglandular tissue and cancer appear as white on a mammogram, which makes it harder to determine the presence of cancer.