Bus Sends Message About Dense Breast Tissue

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A grassroots movement is sending a message you can’t miss — with the help of a pink bus. The message is educating our community about breast health. And the women who are involved in the campaign are sharing first-hand experiences to help others better detect breast cancer.

A new movement is hoping you are driving around town, see a giant pink bus with white spots — and immediately think about breast health.

Each One. Tell One is a grassroots campaign designed to raise awareness about dense breast tissue. Its goal is to empower women to learn about what it means and how it relates to breast cancer detection. Research suggests that 45 percent of women have dense breast tissue, which makes it difficult to diagnose breast cancer exclusively through a screening mammogram and puts women at risk of hidden tumors.

At age 40, Heather Reimer co-founded this campaign. To best understand the Each One. Tell One movement, here’s her story:

Heather-Reimer

Heather’s Story

In December 2010, I had a mammogram as part of my 40-year-old preventative screening. It was clear. At that time, I had been told I had dense breast tissue, which makes reading a standard mammogram more difficult, and was given a hand-held ultrasound examination. Again, I was given the “all clear” message.

September 2011, I needed to complete two points for my workplace wellness program. For these points, I opted for a new automated breast-screening exam designed for dense breast tissue. I had no worry or concern, and this seemed to be the best option for completing my final two points.

An automated whole-breast ultrasound has no radiation exposure and no uncomfortable squishing like a mammogram. The procedure was easy. The radiologist reviewed it immediately and told me that I had six areas, three on the right and three on the left, that needed a closer look. She assured me it was probably not a big deal, as the ultrasound often identifies little details that turn out to be nothing, so I left the appointment without much concern.

As a precaution, I followed up with a diagnostic mammogram and a hand-held diagnostic ultrasound exam. The radiologist reviewed the scans and told me that all the areas looked normal except for one spot on my left breast. The spot on my left breast still could not be seen by the mammogram but was detected with ultrasound. She recommended I have a biopsy to rule out any concerns. GULP! This news freaked me out, to say the least.

On Nov. 6, I had my biopsy. The procedure was not too painful. The doctor said the spot was deep in the outer part of my left breast, nearly under my arm. They anticipated having the results back in about two days.

On Nov. 8, my surgeon called me at 8:30 in the evening. He calmly told me that the biopsy confirmed that I had breast cancer — words you never think you will hear. He proceeded to say it appeared to be diagnosed as Triple Negative Metastatic Carcinoma. There was some uncertainty regarding the biopsy, questioning if it was done on a tumor or a lymph node. This potentially created a big concern. If the biopsy was done on a lymph node, then the question remained about the tumor’s location. Cancer in a lymph node is considered metastasized, and combined with a diagnosis of Triple Negative, seemed a pretty poor prognosis.

Because of these concerns, I had to have an MRI and PET scan to find the tumor, though no tumor could be found. I had a second opinion at Johns Hopkins, but the diagnosis remained the same.

My surgeon and I decided to be aggressive, considering I appeared to have aggressive cancer. I chose to have a radical modified mastectomy. If there could be a silver lining, it was that the surgery brought a new diagnosis. A biopsy takes such a small amount of tissue that when the entire breast was scrutinized by pathology, the new diagnosis was determined as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Triple Negative Grade 3 Stage 2. This was good news!

Although Triple Negative is a very aggressive cancer and has a high chance of recurrence, having a tumor and not having a metastatic cancer was such a better outcome. In 2012, I had multiple surgeries and five months of ACT chemo.

Sadly, my story is not unique. I was fortunate enough, by chance, to have additional ultrasound imaging for no other reason than to complete points for my workplace wellness program. I am convinced my aggressive cancer would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the additional ultrasound examination.

So next time you see the RTC Pink Bus driving by, stop to think about your breast health. And tell your loved ones about the Each One. Tell One movement.

Screening is Key

A mammography remains the best tool to fight breast cancer because it may detect the disease in its earliest stages, before it can be felt during a breast examination. Research has shown that this early detection can increase breast cancer survival.

A mammogram can help your doctor decide if a lump, growth or change in your breast needs further testing. The mammogram is also used to look for lumps or other findings that are too small to be felt during a physical exam.

If your mammogram shows you have dense or fatty breast tissue, be sure to talk with your doctor to determine if further testing is required.

For more information about breast health or to schedule your mammogram appointment, visit renown.org/BreastHealth or call 775-982-8100.

 

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