I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer twice. The last time was ten years ago. The first time was at the age of 23. I underwent a left radical mastectomy for a highly aggressive grade three breast cancer. I remained cancer free until 12 years later. At that point, I had two beautiful daughters. I had been having regular mammography. In my mammogram reports, radiologists used the words: “high dense breast tissue”, and “not able to see any abnormalities.” When my daughters were turning two and four years old, I wasn’t feeling well. Although I was told my mammogram showed no abnormalities, I was convinced that something wasn’t right and I scheduled a prophylactic mastectomy. The surgeon asked for a mammogram just before surgery and that mammogram showed cancer in my lymph nodes. Obviously, undetected cancer had been growing for some time. Thankfully, the surgery and the subsequent six months of aggressive chemotherapy, two months of maximum radiation therapy, and a year of Herceptin treatment did what they needed to do. My children were robbed of a lot of precious mommy time, but I’m here today, a 45-year-old healthy woman, and in every way I feel stronger.
I was shocked when I found out that the likely reason for the delay in my diagnosis was my “extremely dense” breast tissue. I was not informed about the risks of extremely dense breasts and that I was four to six times more likely to get breast cancer. I had no idea. I was a trained breast health instructor and even I didn’t know the increased risk of breast cancer related to breast density. All women should know this.
Feather lives in British Columbia. She was diagnosed in 1995 at age 23 and in 2007 at age 35.