For years, I was told I had cystic breasts, just normal lumpy breasts. I cut back on coffee, tea and chocolate. I was also told there is no such thing as a painful tumour. Cancer tumours don’t hurt right? Wrong.

A few years prior to my Stage 4 de novo diagnosis, my GP, the mammography technician and I could feel a thickening, but it didn’t show up on the mammogram. The technician even went so far as to place a paper clip under my breast so the radiologist would look closer in that area. Nothing showed on the mammogram; nothing was ever mentioned to me about my having dense breasts and the benefits of having an ultrasound. So lo and behold when the cancer finally showed as a speck at 6 o’clock and 4 o’clock on my 2012 mammogram, it was too late. It had already traveled vascularly to my liver. My breast surgeon never read the CT scan prior to my left mastectomy surgery as my liver was covered in lesions…there should not be any mastectomy or reconstructive surgery when you are Stage 4. It is too dangerous….Had she done her job I would have been spared so much pain and grief…to this day!

I didn’t know to ask if I had dense breasts. If I had I might not be what I am…dying from Stage 4 breast cancer. I’m so angry that curse words just spew uncontrollably from my mouth. I never knew the questions to ask: it’s not about being breast cancer aware, it’s about knowing what to ask. It is the doctor’s responsibility to tell you if you have dense breasts, but our doctors are not telling patients. There’s a big gap. There are 15,000 women with Stage 4 stories in Canada and breast density needs to be part of the knowledge base.

Joanne lives in Ontario and at age 61, 14 months after a normal mammogram, felt pain and was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.