Chiara's Story

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Name:                

 Chiara

State: New Jersey 
Date of diagnosis:

 11/03/2014

Age at time of diagnosis:

 42

Stage of diagnosis:

 

 Stage 3 - Triple Negative 

Last 'NORMAL' mammogram:
 2 months prior to diagnosis/cancer STILL invisible on mammography once felt
 
How was cancer diagnosed?
 Felt by Chiara - ultrasound confirmed diagnosis

Chiara's Story: 

Upon my return from studying in Florence, Italy to get my Master’s degree in Italian Culture, I went to my primary care physician in August 2014 for my routine physical.  She gave me a breast exam and told me, at the age of 42, that I did not need a mammogram. Even though I don’t have immediate family history of breast cancer, I didn’t feel comfortable with her advice; I consulted with another doctor who promptly ordered a mammogram.

The mammogram in August 2014 was 'normal.'  I do not recall reading anything about breast density on my report; the topic of my breast density was not brought up, I did not know to ask about it and I was not offered information. I was happy to be “healthy.”

On the eve of my 43rd birthday, October 24, 2014, I felt a large, golf-ball sized mass at 2:00 on my left breast, I was terrified by this foreign object. My boyfriend told me it was probably nothing, marking the beginning of his denial and the fight for my life.   

After I felt the lump, a new PCP ordered another mammogram. At 2.3 cm, the lump was still not visible on the follow-up mammogram! Immediately, an ultrasound was ordered, and the tumor was clearly visible. A biopsy confirmed that I had breast cancer.

My breast surgeon showed me the mammogram and ultrasound images, saying finding a tumor in dense breast tissue is like “finding a snowball in a snowstorm” on a mammogram.  The breast surgeon I got a second opinion from ordered an MRI, which was controversial – my first breast surgeon said she doesn’t order MRI because of potentially delaying treatment. I decided to go with the MRI, and did have to get a second mass biopsied, determining I had stage three breast cancer, due to the two large masses in one breast.

I was baffled as to how mammograms and breast exams could not have found my malignancy; I was told that this often happens with women who have dense breast tissue. Since I had triple negative breast cancer, the tumor grew quickly. I wish the radiologist and PCP did their job and ordered further testing; if my tumor had been found when it was very small, I would have been a candidate for a lumpectomy, conserving my breast and its sensitivity.

Since my diagnosis, I started a blog called www.beautythroughthebeast.com where I blog about my cancer journey, emphasizing the importance of women knowing their breast density. I attend breast cancer support groups and am involved in fundraising for breast cancer. Since I am open about my story, the first thing I say to women, broaching the topic of breast health, is the importance of knowing their breast density: I tell women to ask their radiologist about their breast density, and if they have dense breast tissue, to get further testing - starting with a 3D mammogram and then discussing adjunct screening with health care providers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Please browse the website further to learn about dense breast tissue, use the available resources, read and share stories and consider making a donation to help expose this BEST-KEPT SECRET about the limitations of mammography alone to detect cancer in women with dense breast tissues.

Are You Dense, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) public charity. IRS Tax ID 26-3643216. All donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

  
  • Are You Dense? Fact #1:

    Breast density is one of the strongest predictors of the failure of mammography screening to detect cancer.

     
  • Are You Dense? Fact #2:

    Two-thirds of pre-menopausal women and 1/4 of post menopausal women have dense breast tissue. 

     
  • Are You Dense? Fact #3:

    Adding more sensitive tests to mammography significantly increase detection of invasive cancers that are small and node negative.

     
  • Are You Dense? Fact #4:

    Cancer turns up five times more often in women with extremely dense breasts than those with the most fatty tissue.

     
  • Are You Dense? Fact #5:

    While a mammogram detects 98% of cancers in women with fatty breasts, it finds only 48% in women with the densest breasts.

     
  • Are You Dense? Fact #6:

    A woman at average risk and a woman at high risk have an EQUAL chance of having their cancer masked by mammogram.

     
  • Are You Dense? Fact #7:

    Women with dense breasts who had breast cancer have a four times higher risk of recurrence than women with less-dense breasts.

     
  • Are You Dense? Fact #8:

    A substantial proportion of Breast Cancer can be attributed to high breast density alone.

     
  • Are You Dense? Fact #9:

    There are too many women who are unaware of their breast density, believe their “Happy Gram” when it reports no significant findings and are at risk of receiving a later stage cancer diagnosis. 

     
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