I went for my regularly scheduled mammogram in April of 2014. The notice I received for my appointment for my mammogram stated that I was to be screened annually because I had dense breast tissue. This was the first time I had heard that term. When I had my mammogram in Regina, I told the tech that my letter stated that I had dense breast tissue. After having the mammogram and looking at the film, she said yes, “dense breasts.” I had no idea what this meant for me, but I was to find out soon.
I received a letter from the screening centre stating that my mammogram results were normal, with no mention of my breast density. I had my annual physical with my GP and he noted that my mammogram results were normal and there was no need for a breast exam. Again, no mention of breast density. Fast forward to June of 2014 when I found a lump while showering. I made an appointment to see a different GP, as mine had moved to different city. She felt the lump but didn’t seem overly concerned as I had just had a normal mammogram, but she did refer me for further testing. Because of the normal mammogram results, I procrastinated in getting the next level of testing. I had an ultrasound completed near the end of July. After receiving a call from the doctor’s office, I was sent for biopsy and this confirmed IDC Grade 3 on Aug 4,2014. What a punch to the gut.
In reviewing my test results from the mammogram and ultrasound, the biopsy was only completed because the radiologist could feel the lump which wasn’t visible by mammogram or ultrasound. I had my mastectomy on Sept 9, 2014 and my pathology showed a 3 cm lump as well as 2 positive lymph nodes with extra capsular extension. I was staged at 2B, ER + PR+ and Her 2 -. My oncologist recommended chemotherapy and radiation, as well as the aromatase inhibitor Letrozole. This was no doubt one of the toughest years of my life and I am grateful for the excellent care I received from the Allen Blair Cancer Centre in Regina.
My biggest concern is for the other women out there with dense breast tissue that are unaware of the dangers associated with dense breast tissue. In posting my story hopefully the message can be sent to be an advocate for your own health, do monthly self-exams, ask when you have your mammogram if you have dense breast tissue. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and educate yourself. Mammograms are a great tool for some, but for us who have extremely dense breast tissue, they are not enough. I am now screened annually by MRI. So far, I am one of the lucky ones. My life is back to normal and I am hoping that breast cancer is in my rear-view mirror!
Tannis lives in Saskatchewan and was diagnosed in 2014 at age 57 with stage 2B cancer 4 months after a normal mammogram.