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From Patient to Advocate: Nancy Cappello Discusses Her Journey

the journey for Nancay Cappello from patient to advocacy Photo Courtesy of Are You Dense Inc.

Starting at the age of 50, all women should have a mammogram every one to two years, according to MedlinePlus.

Recommendations from other organizations vary, with some women being encouraged to start at the age of 40. X-ray is used to image the breast.

The National Cancer Institute stated that the most effective way to detect breast cancer is a combination of a regular mammogram and clinical exam.

However, for women who have dense breast tissue, the mammogram may not be effective in detecting changes, as the dense tissue and tumor both appear solid white on the imaging.

EmpowHER talked to Nancy Cappello, Ph.D. about her advocacy for dense breast tissue awareness. In February 2004, Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer.

But her mammograms had come back as normal. It was not until her annual physical that her physician felt a ridge, and an ultrasound also confirmed the presence of a 2.5 cm tumor.

Her mammograms had not detected the tumor because she has dense breast tissue.

EmpowHER:

Why did you decide to become an advocate for dense breast tissue awareness?

Nancy Cappello:

When I was diagnosed with advanced-stage IIIC breast cancer (a 1" invasive tumor with 13 metastasized lymph nodes) within weeks of a “normal” mammogram, I was baffled. I questioned my docs how my cancer could be so advanced in light of my decade of faithful yearly screenings and “normal’ mammography reports.

This was the first time I was informed that my “dense breast tissue” limited the ability of my mammograms to find my cancer. Shocked that there was something about my breast tissue composition that got in the way of an early diagnosis (after all, isn’t this the reason woman go for screening?); I hunted for information about my “dense breast tissue.”

Popular women’s publications and cancer and physician organizations’ websites were void on the subject of this ‘dense’ condition that prevented my cancer from being detected early, thus receiving the life sentence that the odds of living beyond five years was less than fifty percent.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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