Women with dense breast tissue are more likely to have their cancer missed in a normal mammogram, often times resulting in a late stage diagnosis, according to Nancy Cappello, president of Are You Dense, Inc.
But she’s not only speaking as a head of a nonprofit, she’s speaking as a cancer survivor.
After yearly mammograms starting at age 40, Cappello said she was diagnosed with advance stage breast cancer because the mammogram did not detect the tumor through her dense breast tissue.
“I asked my doctor why didn’t my mammogram find the cancer, and this is the first time I heard these words, she said ‘Nancy you have dense breast tissue,’” Cappello said.
Cappello shared her story at a press conference hosted by Sen. Joseph J. Crisco, Jr. , D-Woodbridge, Tuesday to discuss breast cancer screening policies with Taiwanese breast cancer specialist Dr. Pai-Jung Huang.
“I am honored to attend this press conference today,” said Huang who was joined by his wife who, like Cappello and many other women, has dense breast tissue and was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer.
He said his wife continued to have yearly mammogram check up after turning 40 that all resulted in a clean bill of health. However after having consistent pain over her breast she went back to the doctor to have it more extensively looked out, said Huang.
“She found a mass and had a biopsy and found they were malignant,” he said. “If women like my wife and Nancy Cappello had proper screenings for women with dense breasts we could save a lot of suffering.”
Huang said he attended the press conference in hopes of bringing Connecticut’s progressive laws on breast cancer screening to Taiwan. “Asian women tend to have a higher risk of density,” said Huang.
“Connecticut has established itself as a leader in breast cancer awareness, now providing mandatory referrals to and insurance coverage for additional screening as necessary; our proactive approach has already helped not just the women who live here, but their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers besides,” Crisco said. “It’s extremely gratifying to know the success we’ve had here gives hope to women and breast cancer prevention advocates elsewhere – I’ve pledged to help Dr. Huang and others adapt our policies to suit their needs.”
Currently Crisco is working hard to get a bill signed into law that will force certain health insurance policies to cover MRI of women’s breasts in specific circumstances. But as a Democrat he’s not the only one encouraging Gov. Dannel P. Malloy sign the bill.
Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, sent out a press release Wednesday urging Malloy to sign the bill.
“This issue is one that hits close to home for so many Connecticut families,” Fasano said. “We now know through research that conventional mammograms don’t catch every tumor. So, for women with dense breast tissue, who are advised to get additional screenings through MRI – this law will require insurance companies to cover the cost.”
“Connecticut has been on the forefront of early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. This new policy will give women with insurance access to a more complete range of screening options,” Fasano said of the legislation making its way to Malloy’s desk.
“Since our work with the Connecticut legislature starting is 2005 we were the first in the nation to pass two landmark bills,” Cappello said.
The first bill gave more women access to image services, the second bill made Connecticut the first in the nation to inform women about the density of their breasts.
“Hopefully perhaps Congress will take our initiative and do something about this too,” said Crisco.
Cappello said other states are beginning to follow Connecticut’s lead.
“On the legislative side, Texas passed a similar bill in its Senate; likewise New York passed a senate bill but there wasn’t time enough to have it called in the House,” said Cappello in a press release. “We also have action in New Hampshire, Florida, Kansas, Missouri and Pennsylvania to bring those states up to Connecticut’s standards.”
“I guess the whole point of this is that the issue of dense breast tissue is not uncommon we just have to make sure this information gets to women,” Cappello said.