By: Bonnie Rush, RT(R)(M)(QM)
Did you read that Mammography screening IS being abolished in Switzerland? It may not happen. But there’s continued controversy swirling around the value of early detection and mammography. Naysayers suggest that early detection with screening mammography may not be providing the biggest bang for the medical buck. They may be right about the value of mammography, but let’s make sure they do not forget, we want early detection and we are worth more than a buck – or even two.
The concern is that this continued debate may cause insurance companies to throw out the baby (early detection) with the bathwater (mammography). While it is true that some breast cancers cannot be overcome no matter the timing of detection, earlier allows a better outcome in most cases and reduces the impact of treatment. Similar to having a cavity, if caught early enough one does not have to lose the entire tooth.
I think the controversy on the value of this “early detection tool” points to the lack of adequate and realistic education about the limitations of mammography and how dense tissue impacts the ability to “see” cancers (white cancer in a white dense tissue background). Even the much-touted newest mammography technology – digital breast tomosynthesis – failed to find the invasive cancer buried in my dense tissue. And guess what – there are lots of me’s around. This includes ALL women when their hormones are the most active and makes mammography of less value in finding cancers and increases the amount of radiation to those “younger” breasts. Thus the generally accepted United States policy to begin screening at age 40 but that too is controversial with at least one influential organization stating not to begin until age 50 – for the very reasons just stated – it is not as valuable a tool until the breasts are less dense. This does not happen overnight and over 30% of women have dense breasts in their 70’s.
The density impact is not admitted as a significant failure in the entrenched circles that continue to try to justify mammography as THE ONLY early detection tool. We are the ones they put at risk for the demise of early detection by not admitting that mammography is not a perfect fit for us all, by not admitting there are other possible tools for those with dense breasts that may be even more appropriate. Consequently it is imperative we learn about and promote the use of alternative tools that allow early detection for all women at its earliest possible opportunity.
Thus the focus of my Bosom Buddies in the quest to level the playing field for all women. Nancy Cappello, Ph.D., whose breast cancer was not found until it was a Stage 3 due to her dense tissue. Nancy has dedicated her life to advancing the need for those with dense breasts to be notified that their dense tissue may put them at higher risk for breast cancer and increases the likelihood that mammography will not find their cancers in their earliest stages. Nancy founded Are You Dense Advocacy, Inc. (areyoudenseadvocacy.org), and now 19 US States have Notification Laws in effect and a national bill is being advanced. And I am so proud to be on the advisory board with such excellent women as Wendy Damonte and Barbara Dehn. Wendy is the KTVN Channel 2 News Anchor. Her mother died of advanced breast cancer due to very late stage detection. In her desire to be sure no other woman loses her life this way she has launched Each One Tell One (www.eachonetellone.com) so women with dense breasts will know they need to spread the word that along with the mammogram – they want another type of early detection screening. Barbara Dehn, R.N.P., is known as Nurse Barb, whose sage advice on all types of women issues can be found at NurseBarb’s Daily Dose (www.nursebarb.com). She was instrumental in coordinating the introduction of Cyrcadia Health to the very proactive imaging center at El Camino Hospital. They are now working with Cyrcadia Health to confirm the value of of the iTBra. Thus you can be sure we will continue to promote the value of early detection.
That is why I am so excited about the launch of this website to introduce you to the iTBra – it IS an early detection tool for use by every woman regardless of age or breast density. With its use, you will help us to confirm and spread the word that early detection is a life as well as breast saver.