|Date of diagnosis:|
Feb. 2, 2016
|Age at time of diagnosis: |
Stage of diagnosis:
|Stage 3C |
|Last 'NORMAL' Mammogram: |
Within the month
How was cancer diagnosed?
I did everything "right" when it came to preventative care. I saw my health provider every July and had a mammogram every January. I began to feel a few small, mobile lumps in my right breast and my left breast in 2014. My health provider, a women's care specialist, assured me at every appointment that these were not an issue and that they were a result of polycystic breast tissue, due to peri-menopause. I had two regular mammograms, with no abnormal findings.
I noticed a small note on the bottom of the mammogram report that mentioned dense breast tissue, but when I asked about this, I was told not to worry about it and no follow up every occurred. In January, 2016, 3D mammography was available at my local breast center, so I paid out of pocket for that test. Results again showed no breast mass, but it did show an enlarged left axillary lymph node. Thank goodness, I was referred to a surgeon, who felt a lump in my left breast and was concerned. I was quickly diagnosed with Stage IIIC Invasive Ductal Carcinoma of the left breast, with lymph node involvement. 3D mammography still did not show the tumor. An ultrasound was the only tool that revealed the breast cancer. My tumor was 4cm and completely undetected by my mammograms.
It seemed like the perfect storm: dense breast tissue was ignored by my provider, I am under age 50, I have a family history of breast cancer (my maternal aunt) and I had palpable lumps. A simple ultrasound perhaps would have detected my cancer at an earlier stage and I would have avoided the intense treatment, loss of work hours and excessive cost of cancer care. My health care'less' provider claimed, after I asked her why she never sent me on for further screening, "If I sent every woman with lumpy bumps for an ultrasound, the system would be overloaded." I no longer see her.
I had 6 rounds of neoadjuvant chemotherapy and then a double mastectomy followed by 30 rounds of radiation. I receive Herceptin for HER2+ breast cancer.
I am using my story of missed, delayed and advanced stage breast cancer to advocate for disclosure of density to Wisconsin women. "I want all women to know about the impact of their dense breast tissue and have access to personalized screening."
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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.
American College of Radiology describes women with "Dense Breast Tissue" as having a higher than average risk of Breast Cancer.
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.
Cancer turns up five times more often in women with extremely dense breasts than those with the most fatty tissue.
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.