“I want to help other women,” said Ms. Cappello, formerly the state’s chief of special education. “I can’t help myself. My cancer should have been detected at a much earlier stage.”
“When her doctor found a suspicious ridge during a manual exam eight years ago, she had a mammogram and an ultrasound on the same day. The mammogram again spotted nothing amiss, but an ultrasound found a tumor the size of a quarter. Her breast cancer had also spread to 13 lymph nodes.”
"As noted in JAMA, revised screening protocols for dense breast tissue are largely due to the tireless efforts of Dr. Nancy Cappello, herself a survivor of cancer in dense breasts, missed by mammography and found at a late stage. Turning that adversity into opportunity as only the true heroes among us ever do, Nancy founded the charity Are You Dense to protect other women with dense breasts from the false sense of security mammography was apt to provide them. Standard mammography is ill-suited to detect the early signs of cancer in dense breast tissue, which is present in as many as 40 percent of all women."Read More: US News & World Report - Dense Breast Screening: Dense If We Do, Dense If We Don't?
"Cappello, an educator by profession had ten previous “normal” annual mammograms until 2004, where she was diagnosed with Stage 3c cancer. Her doctor in her annual checkup felt a suspicious “mass” in her breast just two months after another normal mammogram in November 2003. During her investigations about why the mammogram had been reported normal, she found out why her mammograms had missed the breast cancer earlier—she had dense breasts. Cappello's experience led to the birth of the women's advocacy movement, Are You Dense,which has powerfully argued that women have a right to be told their breast density following a mammogram, and that they should be informed of their screening choices if they do have “dense” breasts.
"As articulated by Nancy M. Cappello, Ph.D., who founded the non-profit organization AreYouDense, women have every right to know if they have dense breasts and if they’re at increased risk for a hidden tumor. She called the false reassurance of a negative mammogram a Happygram – referring to when a woman with dense breasts is told her screening mammogram is normal or doesn’t show breast cancer, but in fact the test is uninterpretable."
"Dense breast tissue is much more common among women in Japan than in the United States, meaning that techniques in addition to mammography are needed for effective detection. That’s a message Cappello delivered in July to an audience of healthcare specialists at the annual Japanese Breast Cancer Society conference in Tokyo. Reached by email after the event, Cappello said she was “stunned” to learn that screening rates for the disease were so low in Japan. She believes a similar type of advocacy to what she has championed in the US may be needed to improve the situation.
"You don't want Nancy Cappello mad at you....What made her angry was that for years she had been receiving what she calls "Happygrams," yearly mammograms that said she had no problems. When she asked why the mammogram had not detected her cancer earlier she was told her breasts were dense."
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.
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.
A substantial proportion of Breast Cancer can be attributed to high breast density alone.
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.