Who We Are

Dense Breasts Canada (DBC) is a non-profit organization, founded in 2016. DBC is made up of breast cancer survivors and healthcare professionals dedicated to raising awareness about the risks associated with dense breasts and advocating for breast density notification. 

OUR GOALS: AWARENESS AND ADVOCACY

To increase awareness among women, doctors and nurse practitioners of the risks associated with dense breasts.

To convince health authorities to report breast density to family doctors, nurse practitioners and women.

To convince health authorities to provide ultrasounds to women in Category D (Extremely Dense Breasts) and to women in Category C with a family history (Heterogeneously Dense).

WHY WE’RE SEEKING CHANGE

Most women do not know their breast density. Over 3 million women in Canada, over age of 40, have dense breasts. DBC wants to educate women about the importance of knowing their breast density and the implication of having dense breasts.

Why breast density matters:

Women with dense breasts have a higher chance of developing breast cancer: Dense breasts are an independent risk factor for cancer. Women with the densest breasts are 4-6 times more likely to get cancer than women with fatty breasts. The higher the density, the higher the risk of cancer. Studies show that having dense breasts is an even more significant risk factor than having a family history of breast cancer.

Mammograms are very important but they are NOT enough for women with dense breasts. Mammography can miss up to 50% of the breast cancers in the highest category of density. Women with dense breasts can benefit from additional screening. The use of ultrasound, in addition to mammography, can decrease the number of missed or delayed cancer diagnoses.

Our People

Dr. Paula Gordon-about
Dr. Paula Gordon

Paula B. Gordon, OBC, MD, FRCPC, FSBI

Medical Advisor

Dr. Paula Gordon is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of British Columbia. She is a passionate clinician, researcher and educator.

In the 1980’s her research on ultrasound-guided breast biopsies led to it becoming a standard of care worldwide. This procedure enabled accurate diagnosis of breast masses, which had previously required surgery and allowed women to forego surgery for non-cancerous abnormalities.

During her career, Dr. Gordon has published 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Her research in the early 1990’s was the first to show that ultrasound could find cancers missed on mammograms. This has led to a paradigm change in the management of screening women with dense breasts that began in the USA in 2009, but is now spreading to Canada, the UK, Australia and Europe.

She was a member of BC Women’s Health Centre’s Expert Task Force for a Breast Assessment & Diagnostic Partnership Pilot Program in 1996, and has worked there since, serving as Medical Director of the Sadie Diamond Breast Program from 2007 to 2019. During that time, she secured funding from The Diamond Foundation and the Provincial Health Services Authority to obtain the first tomosynthesis technology (3D mammography) in BC and to establish the Vancouver Breast Imaging Fellowship, to train the future leaders in breast imaging. She arranged for trainees to rotate through BC Women’s Health Care Centre, BC Cancer, and the office of Dr. Linda Warren & Associates to ensure exposure to multiple experts. Due to the reputation of the program she has also trained self-funded fellows from other provinces, the USA and the Middle East.

With the acquisition of tomosynthesis, Dr. Gordon arranged for Vancouver to be among the first Canadian sites to join TMIST: the tomosynthesis mammographic imaging screening trial, an FDA-funded multi-centre trial, donating hundreds of hours participating in the planning and preparation of the trial as a Canadian lead-in site.

Dr. Gordon is widely appreciated for her mentoring of medical students, radiology residents and fellows in breast imaging, as well as teaching her individual patients and the public. She is a popular instructor at "Hands-on workshops" at the Radiologic Society of North America where radiologists learn how to perform needle biopsies and other procedures with ultrasound guidance, and has done so every year since they were first introduced in 1993.

She is a sought-after speaker and moderator and panel member, and has given hundreds of invited lectures locally, nationally and internationally, as well as participating on and chairing scientific panels throughout North America.

She volunteers as a reviewer for several medical journals, and is a volunteer advisor to Dense Breasts Canada, a Canadian patient advocacy group, and an American educational website: Dense Breast Info.

With colleagues from across Canada, she was a founding member of the Canadian Society of Breast Imaging.

Dr. Gordon has volunteered on and chaired dozens of committees:

  • Member, Lower Mainland Innovation and Integration Fund Committee for Breast Health
  • Chair, Early Detection Committee, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation 2020 Project
  • Chair of the Early Detection Committee of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, BC/Yukon Division,
  • Member, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Breast Cancer Prevention and Risk Assessment Clinic Advisory Board
  • Chair of the Academic Committee of the Screening Mammography Program of British Columbia,
  • Co-Chair of the Workforce Committee of the Provincial Breast Health Strategy, and a member of the Steering, Clinical Pathway and Prevention Committees of the Provincial Breast Health Strategy,
  • Member of the Provincial Radiology Expert Committee, a reviewer for the Canadian Association of Radiology Mammography Accreditation program
  • Reviewer for clinical practice guidelines for the American College of Radiology
  • Reviewer for clinical practice guidelines for the Canadian Association of Radiologists
  • Member, UBC Radiology Advisory Committee

And in addition to all the time she volunteers to better breast health, she also has volunteered as a Director of the Board of the Canucks for Kids Fund since 2006.

In recognition of her contributions to the field of breast imaging, she was made a Fellow of the Society of Breast Imaging, a society of the American College of Radiology, and volunteers on their Board of Directors.

Her other awards and recognition include:

Canadian Heads of Academic Radiology Development Award

BC Children’s and Women’s Hospital Award of Excellence in Education

A Killam Teaching Prize from University of British Columbia.

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.

The Order of British Columbia,

Honorary member of the UBC Medical Alumni Association.

Canadian Women’s Executive Network Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, Trailblazers and Trendsetters Award

Was called “one of the greatest Canadian specialists in breast cancer detection and diagnosis” by the Ministry for the Status of Women, on the occasion of the International Day of Radiology

Best Teacher – UBC Radiology Residents

Marlie Oden
Marlie Oden

MARLIE ODEN
Communications Chair

“I am grateful my cancer was caught early, but the mammogram only caught the cancer in one breast."

A bit of a health nut, Marlie was shocked in 2016 to find out that she had breast cancer in both breasts. Only one breast cancer was discovered by mammogram. One of the lucky ones, she knew she had dense breasts, as her physician had informed her 20 years earlier (after a biopsy and being told by the ultrasound radiologist). But knowing wasn’t enough- she should have had an ultrasound each year- the earlier it’s caught the better. Life gets busy. Marlie founded Bridge Communications in 1995 and prior to that, she worked at McKim Advertising, based in Vancouver, where she managed the Tourism British Columbia account before becoming the Vice-President and Account Director. Marlie has sat on the Board of Directors of Telefilm Canada, the Arts Club Theatre, the Vancouver International Film Festival, Vancouver TheatreSports, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, The Fringe Festival, BC Wine Institute, BC Bortstal Association, and the Stanley Theatre. Marlie was appointed to the Board of Directors of CBC/Radio-Canada on July 30, 2013, for a five-year term.

An active member of her community, she has received the Jessie Richardson Patron of the Arts Award and the City of Vancouver Arts Award for Outstanding board member. In 2016, Marlie was recognized by BC Business as one of British Columbia’s 35 most influential women. Marlie attended the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. She is a graduate of the Canadian Board Diversity Council Program and a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors. She is an avid runner and her greatest joy is her family. Her passion is to make sure that women get the best advice and treatment possible for breast cancer. Marlie received great treatment at the BC Cancer Agency and looks forward to working with them, getting the word out on dense breasts.

Jenne Dale
Jennie Dale

JENNIE DALE
Co-Founder

Jennie is the Co-founder of Dense Breasts Canada (DBC). She lives in Ontario. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014. Mammogram and tomosynthesis did not detect her cancer-it was detected by ultrasound. Inspired by the successful advocacy efforts of American organizations, "areyoudense.org" and "densebreast-info.org," Jennie co-founded DBC with Michelle DiTomaso in 2017 and has teamed up with breast cancer survivors nationwide to raise awareness of the risks of dense breasts. Together, they are also advocating for breast density notification for all women in Canada.

Michelle Di Tomaso
Michelle Di Tomaso

MICHELLE DI TOMASO
Co-Founder

Michelle is the Co-founder of Dense Breasts Canada. She was diagnosed in August 2014 with Stage 2B, Triple Positive Breast Cancer. Over the next 2 years, she underwent 2 surgeries to remove the cancer, Chemotherapy (A/C, Taxol and Herceptin), Radiation, a Double Mastectomy and 3 unsuccessful reconstructive surgeries, and spent 25 days in the hospital.

She was informed that her cancer diagnosis had been delayed 3 years because she had dense breasts. Had the cancer been caught earlier, the treatment would more than likely have been limited to surgery only.

Michelle is from British Columbia: the only Canadian province to currently notify all women of their breast density. She is passionate about seeing breast density notification for all women in Canada included in the mammogram results letter.

Meet Our Advocates

BC, AB, SK, MB

Michelle Di Tomaso | British Columbia

Marlie Oden | British Columbia

Joscelyn Baker | British Columbia

Cinda Lambert | British Columbia

Feather Sherwood | British Columbia

Trisha MacNeill | Alberta
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Gayle Woloshyn | Saskatchewan

Sharon Olson | Saskatchewan

Louise Schoenherr | Manitoba

ON, QC

Jennie Dale | Ontario

Ann Hill | Ontario
View Bio

Leda Raptis | Ontario

Elizabeth Barnes | Ontario

Naomi Pickersgill | Ontario
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Anna DePellegrin | Ontario

Annie Slight | Quebec
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NB, NS, PEI, NL

Kathy Kaufield
New Brunswick | Prince Edward Island

Ellen Grant | Nova Scotia

Sharon MacNeill | Prince Edward Island
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Janet Gallant | Prince Edward Island

Trisha MacNeill | Alberta

Trisha was told she was at high risk for breast cancer in her early 20s after her mother was diagnosed twice with breast cancer before 50. She was also told that because her great grandmother and two great aunts on her grandfather’s side were also all diagnosed with breast cancer before 50, that more than likely genetics were at play, but they hadn’t yet identified them. They wanted her to take precautions and get screened. Despite this high risk status, she wasn’t flagged for supplemental screening for her category D breast density, nor was she told she had dense breasts when she entered the breast screening program at 40.

She thought she was doing everything she could under the circumstances, unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. The healthcare system failed her. A fluke would save her life not breast cancer screening protocols. After being injured at work, she was sent for a bone scan. This bone scan revealed something was wrong in the area of her right breast and she was sent for a mammogram and ultrasound that revealed nothing, then was sent for a MRI that revealed 3 out of 10 breast cancer masses in her right breast breast. It was at this point she was told she had dense breast tissue that hid her 10 cancer masses and two separate cancers from radiologists.

In shock, she wondered how rare dense breast tissue was and discovered that 43 percent of women over 40 have dense breast tissue and it wasn’t rare at all. She was simply the victim of cost saving measures in government breast cancer screening programs. Angered that even someone as high risk as she was could be ignored by breast cancer screening protocols, she started speaking out.

Ann Hill | Ontario

When Ann's not working as a project manager and training specialist, she's volunteering at local community events as a First Aid provider. Or you can find her in a dragon boat, paddling with 25 other breast cancer survivors.   She is a speaker at Run for the Cure and Relay for Life events, and lives according to her own “C” words: connection, compassion, and community.

After her late-stage breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, Ann joined, and then became a mentor, on Canadian Cancer Society’s online support community,cancerconnection.ca. She wanted to help others in the same way that she was helped by others  who "got it".  It was here that Ann heard about Dense Breasts Canada and learned more about why her tumour was missed on her regular screening mammogram.

With a determination that no woman, including her own two daughters, should have to go through what she went through, Ann became an advocate for Dense Breasts Canada.

On a number of occasions, Ann has met with members of the Ontario Health Minister’s staff to share her story and advocate for density notification for all Ontario women. Currently, only women with dense breasts who have over 75% dense tissue are being notified. But women with 50-75% dense tissue also have dense breasts and they are being kept in the dark about their risk. Ann will continue advocating until all women are informed of their density. If you would like to help by sending a letter to your MPP/Health Minister, there is letter and Factsheet on the footer of our website.

Naomi Pickersgill | Ontario

Naomi feels strongly about the information that is being denied to women with dense breasts. Her breast cancer was not seen on mammogram and she actively spreads the word about dense breasts by speaking to women in person and online. Dense Breasts Cofounder, Jennie Dale, read a comment Naomi made on Cancer Connection and she contacted Naomi asking if she would share her story and explain how breast density impacted her diagnosis. Naomi agreed to share her story and began advocating for notification for ALL women in Ontario. Naomi’s story was featured in the Toronto Star and Stratford media.

Annie Slight | Quebec

In addition to her full time job in a high school, Annie volunteers as an ambassador for the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. As a breast cancer survivor, she feels strongly about giving back and advocating for women.  After commenting on a video posted by Dense Breasts Canada last year, Annie was contacted by one of the cofounders. She was asked if she would share her story, explaining how her breast density impacted her diagnosis. This is how her advocacy work for breast density notification for ALL women in Quebec began.

Quebec was the first province to make it mandatory to  include breast density information in the mammogram report sent to the doctor. But doctors are not relaying the information to women and most women do not know to ask their doctor.  Women have a right to know if their density puts them at increased risk. No one is telling them.

For the past year, Annie has been raising awareness through interviews in the media, actively spreading the word on social media and speaking to women at events. Her advocacy led to two meetings with the Quebec Health Minister, Danielle McCann. Getting a meeting with the Health Minister is by no means an easy feat, but leave it to Annie.

Using her passion and eloquence, she made the case for density notification to Minister McCann, who agreed with Annie that women should know their breast density. There is a commitment from the Health Minister to start informing women of their breast density in the fall of 2019, but it is unclear at this time what information will be provided, and how it will be relayed to women.  Annie continues to correspond with the Minister’s office and will continue advocating until all women in Quebec are informed of their breast density in their mammogram results letter.

If you would like to help Annie with advocacy in Quebec, please let us know.  You can also email Minister McCann at Danielle.McCann.SAGU@assnat.qc.ca and simply write the women of Quebec have a right to information about their health. If you would like to speak to or write your MNA, we have information you can send.

Sharon MacNeill | Prince Edward Island

When I was first diagnosed in 2013 with de novo stage 4 breast cancer, I knew why I was here. I had my first mammogram when I was 61, and by then, it was too late. I knew if I would have had regular mammograms instead of relying on self-exam, I probably could have caught my cancer earlier. I wondered how many women were like me and what were their reasons for not having a mammogram, and I started searching for them. Turns out, when I found other de novo stage 4’s, most DID have regular mammograms. At first it was so puzzling, but I came to know that most of these women were not like me. Most had dense breasts and even though they went for regular mammograms, their cancer was not found until after it had spread to their organs. I made my choice, and I will live with, and die from, the consequences of that choice. But these other women who are here with me, they never knew they had dense breasts. They never knew that a clear mammogram report could be masking cancer.

Someone took their choice from them. I know women with dense breasts are overrepresented in the metastatic community, because for many their cancers are found too late. If we would be counted, health authorities would know it too. But we are not counted, so to protect ourselves, we have to know our breast density and we have to know what it means for our health.

DBC: Sharon and Janet Gallant have been relentless advocates for breast density notification for the women of Prince Edward Island. They have achieved success and women in PEI will be notified of their breast density starting in the Fall of 2019. Women in the highest category of density will also be given ultrasound.

Sharon is also an advocate for other issues: national pharmacare (Awarded CCS National Medal of Courage) and access to palliative care. She is a patient advisor on CPAC’s palliative and end of life care national network. She also runs the Facebook group: Metastatic Breast Cancer Atlantic.