Last Friday in the Vancouver Sun there was an article by Sharon Kirkey about how mammograms miss cancer. I contacted her and the full article can be found on line here. I encourage you to go and read and look at the great mammography images of dense breasts that Sharon has posted. You will see why looking for cancer in dense breasted women is like looking for a snowball in a blizzared. I forget where I read that but love the imagery as it is so much more visual than "white on white"!
As I know by now, I am not alone in my experience. Sharon Kirkey mentions the private member's bill that MP Patrick Brown put forward and that is now stalled in the senate. Mi-Jung Lee and Melanie Nagy have both contacted MP Brown but it is our senators that we need to light a fire under to get them to pass this bill. You can read about the bill here. I am going to contact some of the BC senators and see if I can set up a meeting with them.
Sharon Kirkey also quotes Dr. Christine Wilson of BC Screening Mammography who says there limitations with mammography as with all technology. That is okay, most things have limitations but if women were informed they have dense breasts they could do something about it, namely get an ultrasound or an MRI. Had I been told my breasts were dense, I would have paid for an ultrasound privately.
Most alarmingly for me in the article is the attitude of Dr. Steven Narod, a world leader in the field of breast and ovarian cancer genetics at Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto. From Sharon Kirkey's article, Dr. Narod says, "It's putting a lot on women's plates. I think we've already got enough fear of breast cancer in the population without exacerbating it." He goes on to say, "Should we make the situation worse by telling women they have highly dense breasts? What’s the response? Get an MRI? An MRI is an expensive test. Is that where we’re heading? I think it should be clear-thinking scientists and policy people versed in healthcare evaluation to be making these recommendations", and not a political response to pressure from advocacy groups, he said. This makes me want to scream - not a political response from advocacy groups! He clearly hasn't seen what advocacy groups in the US have done to change the rule in 14 states! Does it all come down to money! Is my life and the lives of all the other women with dense breasts not important? Now with late diagnosis, I live daily with the fear of recurrence not to mention the increased risk of recurrence.
The article also explains that, "one concern is that ultrasounds and MRIs may pick up too many 'false positives' — abnormalities that lead to more anxiety-provoking tests and painful needle biopsies and other investigations for suspicious spots that turn out to be entirely normal." Let me tell you I would MUCH RATHER have been a false positive than then false negative I was. The enlarged lymph node on my left side (noncancerous so far) turned out to be benign and although it is was somewhat stressful waiting for the biopsy and the results it was NOTHING compared to what I have lived through and continue to live through.
A lot of people are visiting this blog but not signing the petition. I want to clarify that I am totally supportive of women going and getting regular mammograms, I can't tell you how important this is. Just be armed with the knowledge from someone who learned the hard way that if you have dense breasts the cancer can be missed. All I would like to ask, is that if you have learned to ask, "Do I have dense breasts? Do I need further testing?" from reading this blog or seeing the pieces on CTV please sign the petition. Please help others and help make a change for the women of British Columbia.