Dense Breast Tissue – You Must Be Your Own Advocate

Breast cancer Survivor, Linda, would like to share her story in the hopes that it will raise awareness about breast density and the risks associated with it:

Throughout my adult life I have performed self-exams and received yearly breast cancer screenings.  These screenings were always negative, with the notation “dense breast tissue.”  What I was not told is my mammograms were not negative, they were inconclusive. 

In June of 2014, I underwent a breast reduction and lift surgery.  I moved to Nevada in December of 2014 and scheduled my annual appointment with my primary care physician for April of 2015.

My medical history states that I have had previous breast surgery.  I told my primary care physician that I felt lumps, which I assumed to be scar tissue in both of my breasts.  My physician referred me for a regular mammogram.  She did not perform a physical examine of my breasts at all.  In fact, I stayed clothed during the entire appointment. 

I had the mammogram a month later (May of 2015).  The results stated, “We are pleased to inform you that the results of your recent mammography examination are normal.”  It also stated “you have dense glandular tissue.” My primary care physician did not contact me, nor did she recommend further testing.  

In September of 2015, I scheduled a routine exam with my OB/GYN.  During this exam, I asked about the lumps I felt that I assumed to be scar tissue.  I gave her the results of my mammogram done in May 2015 showing the normal results.  She felt the “scar” tissue and was very concerned.  She questioned as to why a regular mammogram was ordered and not more advanced studies.  She immediately referred me for an ultrasound, MRI and biopsy of my left breast.  She also explained that if you feel a lump, further testing needs to be done to rule out carcinoma.

When I arrived at the imaging center, I was questioned by staff concerning my need for the studies ordered by my OB/GYN.  The staff referenced the recent negative mammogram, stating there was no need for further studies.  After several minutes of “persuasive” conversation, the imaging center staff contacted my OB/GYN, who restated the orders for the studies.  The tests were completed and I was diagnosed with stage 2, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  The cancer involved my left breast and consisted of several tumors, one of which was six centimeters.

I was referred to an oncologist and surgeon and treatment began immediately.  I underwent 6 months of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.  As of April 2016, I am cancer free!

YOU MUST BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE! 

If your mammogram has the notation “dense breast tissue,” if you have had breast surgery and feel “internal scars,” you must push your doctor for additional imaging beyond a regular mammogram.  Had my doctor read my mammogram results and immediately sent me in for additional testing, I may have caught my cancer earlier.

I am very thankful for the wonderful support I have had from friends and family and want to help anyone avoid having to go through what we have endured the past 7 months.   

– Linda C.