|State:|| Rhode Island*|
|Date of diagnosis:|
May 3, 2013
|Age at time of diagnosis: |
Stage of diagnosis:
| Stage 2A |
|Last 'NORMAL' Mammogram: |
How was cancer diagnosed?
|by Rebecca/confirmed by Ultrasound|
I had annual mammograms faithfully. In December 2012 I started feeling lumps on the side of my left breast. I was due for my annual mammogram, so I figured that would detect any issues I needed to worry about. The technician said she "didn't get a good enough picture" so she did a more exaggerated one on that side. I had even mentioned to her that I felt a lump and noticed a crease on the side of that breast. She didn't really respond to me. About a week later, I received the "all clear, come back in a year" letter.
Several months went by and I could still feel the lumps and the crease never went away. I touched my breast so much that I thought I had created the lump. My anxiety was growing by the day and I was convinced something was wrong. I landed at my primary doctor and he immediately said I should contact my O.B.GYN. After seeing my doctor, she ordered an ultrasound which confirmed a suspicious mass on the left breast. It turned out that I had 3 cancerous tumors, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and after surgery it was discovered I had a 5 cm mass of DCIS. I ended up having a double mastectomy with reconstruction and 4 rounds of chemo due to one lymph node involved. She tested negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutation.
I had been told for years by my doctors that I had dense breasts but they never once mentioned the ramifications and its masking and risk factors. I also have a strong family history of breast cancer (her two aunts died of breast cancer before 50 years of age) but not once did anyone ever mention additional testing because of my dense breasts. I tell my story at every chance to educate others. I am so grateful to be here but I am so furious that so many women have needlessly died after a missed and delayed diagnosis when they never missed their mammogram.
*Rebecca's cancer was diagnosed BEFORE Rhode Island's density reporting law was enacted and became law October 1, 2014. The law was inspired by Rhode Island resident Ann Galligan Kelley, whose 5.5 cm cancer, invisible by mammogram, illuminated on ultrasound.
2014 Rhode Island Bill Signing w/ Governor Chafee, Dr. Cappello and Ann Galligan Kelley
Ladies - make sure you initiate the conversation with your health care providers about your breast tissue composition and advocate for reliable screening tests as adjunct to your mammogram if you have dense breast tissue.
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Breast density is one of the strongest predictors of the failure of mammography screening to detect cancer.
Two-thirds of pre-menopausal women and 1/4 of post menopausal women have dense breast tissue.
Adding more sensitive tests to mammography significantly increase detection of invasive cancers that are small and node negative.
Cancer turns up five times more often in women with extremely dense breasts than those with the most fatty tissue.
While a mammogram detects 98% of cancers in women with fatty breasts, it finds only 48% in women with the densest breasts.
A woman at average risk and a woman at high risk have an EQUAL chance of having their cancer masked by mammogram.
Women with dense breasts who had breast cancer have a four times higher risk of recurrence than women with less-dense breasts.
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.