I had an extremely emotional, yet gratifying day today. I testified in support of Nevada Assembly Bill 147 in front of the Heath and Human Services committee at the Nevada Legislature. The goal of the 20130311-220247.jpgbill is the make it mandatory for doctors to inform their patients if they have dense breast tissue. “What?” you say. What is this “dense breast tissue” you speak of? Never heard of it? That’s weird because 40% OF YOU HAVE DENSE BREAST TISSUE. And that puts you at a higher risk for getting breast cancer. Why? Because dense breast tissue can hide tumors. Tumors are grey, dense tissue is grey. The cancer blends in and often times can’t be seen. Yet no one talks about dense breast tissue. Well, I sure as hell am… and here’ s why.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2010. 6 months prior, she had a clean mammogram. So just last week, I called her surgeon. I asked, first off, if she had dense breast tissue. “Yes, she had heterogeneously dense tissue,” was the reply. Next question. Is there any way her tumor started the day after she had her last mammogram and in 6 months spread to her neck and 38 lymph nodes? “No” was the reply. For a cancer cell to multiply and become 1 centimeter, it takes 5-9 years. MY MOM HAD THIS CANCER GROWING IN HER BREAST FOR AT LEAST 5 YEARS AND IT WAS NEVER PICKED UP WITH A MAMMOGRAM. Holy Shit! That’s all I could say to myself. Holy shit, holy shit… my mom didn’t need to die! If she was told she had dense breast tissue, I guarantee she would have done an additional ultrasound screening. That ultrasound would have likely picked up her cancer years before it had metastasized so aggressively and she would be alive today. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. I believe every woman has a right to know if she has dense breast tissue. Then she can decide if she wants to pay for the additional ultrasound screenings (insurance doesn’t cover this type of screening, go figure!).

20130311-220254.jpgDr. Nancy Cappello, from Conneticut, is the woman who brought the issue of dense breast tissue to light.  She has dense breast tissue and was diagnosed with a late stage breast cancer in 2004.  She got similar legislation passed in Connecticut and also created the organization www.areyoudense.org  This is one of the only places you can get understandable information about this issue (yes, you can read medical journals but trust me they are no fun!).  She also testified at the Nevada Legislature today and I couldn’t be more impressed with her determination to inform women. 

And that’s where I stand.  I don’t want to tell the medical field how to do their job.  I really don’t.  In fact, I have a doctor friend who I respect who has sent me tons of literature opposing  bills like these.  But for me, it comes down to my gut instinct that WOMEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW.  Then you can make your own decisions about what you do with that information.  I can’t turn my back on that belief and the belief that had my mom known about her breast density she would be alive today.  Here’s my final word:  FIND OUT FROM YOUR DOCTOR WHAT TYPE OF BREAST TISSUE YOU HAVE!  Only a mammogram can determine this.  Size, shape, feel… it doesn’t matter.  It’s tissue you are born with.  Your doctors knows the answer to what type of tissue you have…. shouldn’t you too??




About Wendy D

I was born in San Francisco and ended up marrying a rancher in Reno, Nevada. I have a big city job anchoring the 5 o’clock news but come home to the country where my husband’s family has ranched for 5 generations.


  1. Thank you for posting the http://www.areyoudense.org website. It is chalk full of valuable information which I have shared. I went through my mammogram records and in 2006, there was a sentence that reads: “Your mammogram, although normal, shows breast tissue somewhat denser than average. This is normal, but the denseness can hide very small abnormalities and make the interpretation of a mammogram more difficult.”

    I reviewed all my paperwork after this letter, and that paragraph has been removed. On my next mammogram coming up, I am going to ask for the radiologist report and then open the website again and further education myself. Thank for your efforts on your beautiful mother’s behalf and all women really in the Nevada Legislature.

  2. Wendy – what a compelling testimony of a daughter’s love for her mom – and the devastating and fatal impact of having a delayed diagnosis because of dense breast tissue. It was a pleasure to meet you at the Carson City Hearing and to expose the best-kept secret of dense breast tissue. How can a woman be fully involved in her breast health if she does not know her breast density and its impact on EARLY detection?

    • Wendy D says:

      Nancy, it was an honor to work with you and we are all so appreciative of you for making the trip to Carson City! I’ll keep you posted on AB 147!

  3. Fora Farajpanahi says:

    What a Great Article Wendy you wrote on What is Dense Breast Tissue. You really hit the nail on the head with your HOLY _ _ _ _! HOLY _ _ _ _! HOLY _ _ _ _! You could not have put it any better. I too say HOLY SHIT! I needed excuse myself for using this type of language – it is justified, because the TRUTH about DENSE BREAST is being hidden from women. WOMEN may have DENSE BREAST but we do NOT have a DENSE BRAIN to Demand proper Breast Care. DENSE people = medical professionals and governmental politicians who are denying our RIGHTS to know the TRUTH which does mean LIFE or DEATH.

  4. Cindy says:

    I live in Connecticut where this legislation began. I was told I had heterogenously dense breasts shortly after the law was passed, and have received routine ultrasounds with my mammograms. I am grateful for the information now available to me, and can now make educated decisions with this information. Every woman should have the option to make educated decisions about their health, it should not take a law.

    • Wendy D says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Cindy. Connecticut, and Nancy Cappello, definately has lead the way in this country!

  5. Dagmar Bohlmann says:

    As dense-tissue candidate, I think the next step should be to get legislation passed that automatically puts ultrasounds in the preventative care category. Currently, they are not covered by insurance because they are considered “diagnostic”.
    Thanks for taking on this issue. It will help many!

  6. Lissa says:

    I was diagnosed with Dense Breast Tissue as of Oct. 2012 – ironically Breast Awareness Month – lol. Anyhow my doctor told me that I had dense tissue, he told me I didn’t have to find out, however it surprises me that I just found out then, I’ve been having mammo’s for about 3 or 4 years now, the ones (the place I went before) before never told me. I was frighten and scared and then I realized I don’t have cancer now, but I just have to pay more attention to these exams and mammos. Even my doctor made a joke and said that he kept trying to find something wrong and there wasn’t anything so I’m good to go home – still I was on the beginning stages of worrying, he frighten me.
    He told me that it was hereditary, I asked my mom if she has tense breast tissue, she said no, I asked my sister, she said no. So I don’t know where my tense breast tissue came from but I have alerted my 13 daughter to make sure she goes every time they say don’t miss a time, the mammos are not painful just uncomfortable including pap smears please go! She said she will, thank God! I also told her to ask what can of tissue she has and if he won’t tell you to leave him and go to one who will tell you because he’s suppose to tell you, it’s your body you deserve to know.
    I am no longer on Medicaid and in between jobs, what can I do to educate myself and my daughter so we can be more informed on this issue. I am going to my exams and mammos, I’m up for one the end of Aug., of this year. Just a side note: I should be getting back on Medicaid soon so I can go to appointments without having someone to help me out.
    How soon should my daughter get tested? She’s 13 now. I didn’t start getting mammos until 3 or 4 years ago, I’m 50 now, I get breast exams when I go for my annual pap smear.
    You’re doing a great job on this issue don’t stop what you’re doing!
    Thank you.

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