Beekley Medical had the honor of hosting Nancy M. Cappello, Ph.D., Executive Director and Founder of Are You Dense, Inc. for an associate "lunch and learn" about her experience with breast cancer and advocacy to inform women of the impact dense breast tissue has on the early detection of breast cancer.
Dr. Cappello was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer after a decade of "normal" mammograms. Her cancer was not detected by regular screening mammography because of her breast dense tissue until it had grown significantly enough to be palpable and had spread into 13 of her lymph nodes.
In the midst of her treatment and fight for survival, Dr. Cappello tried to find out as much as she could about why this had happened to her - how dense breast tissue could hide a cancer for so long.
What she found was the following:
- Dense breast tissue is the strongest predictor of failure of mammography screening to detect cancer. Both dense breast tissue and breast cancer appear white in mammographic images- quite literally trying to find a snowflake in a blizzard
- 90% of women do not know their breast density and their doctors are under no obligation to inform them.
- Less than 1% of women learn about their breast density from their doctors. Unfortunately, a much higher percentage find out very much like Nancy did- after a breast cancer diagnosis.
- Ultrasound can double the cancer detection rate in women with dense breasts. When used as an adjunct to screening mammography for these women, cancers can be detected earlier when they are smaller, more treatable, and less likely to have metastasized.
Because of these findings, Dr. Cappello has made it her mission to get laws changed in every state so that all women are informed of their breast density and that alternate means of screening for breast cancer, such as ultrasound, be made available to those women with dense breasts.
It has been a true grass roots effort with women like Dr. Cappello who have been affected in some way by a missed cancer due to dense breast tissue spearheading efforts in their individual states. So far, only 14 states (AL, CA, CT, HI, MD, NC, NJ, NV, NY, OR, PA, TN, TX, VA) have "mandatory breast density notification" laws.
We at Beekley Medical believe strongly that early detection saves lives and that no woman should be denied information that can help make early detection possible.
Please join us in our support of this great organization and initiative. Visit the Are You Dense website to learn more about breast density awareness and initiatives for notification legislation at the state or for federal level.
Most importantly - take charge of your own breast health -perform regular self-breast exams, get yearly mammograms beginning at age 40, and ask your doctor "Am I dense?"