Even with a strong family history AND dense breasts, Julie's physicians NEVER recommended additional screening
Date of Diagnosis: July 26, 2011
Age at Diagnosis: 48
Stage of Diagnosis: 3A
Time from "normal" mammogram to diagnosis: 10 months
How was cancer detected? by me
Like many women featured on the website I did everything right. I was a long distance runner, ate organic, did not smoke, did not ever take a birth control pill, got annual physicals and yearly mammograms. I also had family history which I discussed regularly with my OBGYN and Primary Care Physician. They never mentioned my dense breast tissue and the need for an ultrasound as a secondary screening method.
Just 5 weeks after my annual OBGYN/breast exam and 10 months after my last "clear" mammogram I found a lump which seemed to come out of nowhere. It also hurt once I found it. My doctor looked at it and gave me the usual response "breast cancer doesn't usually hurt" but sent me down to the breast clinic for an ultrasound and mammogram. The mammogram found nothing so they brought me in to do the ultrasound. There it was - a 7 cm tumor. I had a bi-lateral mastectomy two weeks later which found 3 positive nodes for cancer as well. I then started 8 rounds of chemo, reconstruction and 25 rounds of radiation.
I'm now on a mission to educate women AND doctors about dense breast tissue. The medical field needs to be better educated to counsel women with family history and dense breast tissue. I lost my grandmother, great aunt and great grandmother to breast cancer over 40 years ago - it just doesn't seem like we have made enough progress in reliable screening for all women for this to happen so many years later.