If you could save your life or someone else’s in less than 10 minutes, would you do it?
We fight to protect the whales. We fight animal cruelty. We fight to protect the environment. They are all worthy causes; but, surprisingly, we accept our own mistreatment. In fact, sometimes we don’t even realize we are being mistreated or, if we do, we assume that someone else will make the problem go away. We do not take action.
Instead, we get indignant. We say it’s not fair. We ask if anyone else has gone through the same thing and, when we find out that we’re not the only ones, we somehow feel better because we’re not alone. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. If we are not alone it means that the unfair treatment is affecting an even wider number of people and it needs to be stopped. We have to stand up for ourselves and the people we love.
This is the first in a series of blog posts about wrongs that need to be righted. Find out what you can do to make a difference in both your life and the lives of the people around you.
The problem – lack of information about breast density
When we have our mammograms, we feel good that we had them done and we feel even better when the results are negative. Even as a cancer survivor, until now, I breathed a sigh of relief each year when I was told there was no evidence of disease (NED). I’ve always been told that a mammogram was all I needed as my safeguard. It’s what determined whether or not I had cancer. I should have known that if my initial diagnosis was so difficult to make, why would it be easier to see the cancer if it came back?
Have you ever wondered why some people are diagnosed at such a late stage for either an initial diagnosis or a diagnosis of a recurrence?
A late stage diagnosis doesn’t mean people weren’t diligent about performing a breast self-examination. It doesn’t mean they didn’t have regular mammograms. It doesn’t mean they ignored symptoms. In fact, even if they had done all these things, it’s still possible their cancer would have been missed if they had dense breasts.
But how can that be true? We’ve always been told that a mammogram will tell us if we have cancer. No one tells us that having dense breasts is a double-edged sword. Not only do dense breasts increase our odds of developing breast cancer (even higher than having a family history) but dense breasts make it harder to detect cancer with just a mammogram. The dense tissue shows as white on a mammogram and so does the cancer. Without another type of test like an ultrasound or MRI the cancer remains masked and continues to grow.
The reality is that there are many women who have been told that their mammograms were negative for cancer only to find out six months later (after additional testing) that they had breast cancer and it was Stage 3. For the same reason, it's possible for breast cancer survivors to go for more frequent mammograms and still not know there's a recurrence until the cancer has reached a much later stage.
If breast density was routinely included as part of mammogram results, both doctors and patients would know when a mammogram isn't enough and additional testing is required. How can we, as potential patients, do nothing when asking for a simple number could save so many lives?
What you can do
Don’t just be indignant. Don’t hope that someone else will make a difference. You have the power to save not only your own life but the lives of others. When taking action takes so little time, how can you say no?
You have lots of options for making a difference. Do as much or as little as you want. Just do something.
In the United States
Go to https://www.areyoudenseadvocacy.org/ where you can find out your state laws about informing patients about their breast density. Please scroll to the bottom of the page to find out how you can let congress know that you want to know your breast density. It’s quick and easy.
In the United Kingdom
Sign a petition - https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-create-a-breast-density-inform-law-so-women-know-how-effective-mammograms-are-for-them-2
Always remember that little actions can have a big impact. Make a difference today.
Over 30-years of writing experience, over five years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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