Dense Breast Matters

Mammograms Are Not Foolproof

Posted | 4 comments

Dense Breasts Canada (DBC) is a non-profit organization made up of Canadians whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. Its mission is to raise women’s awareness about their breast density and its significance on their health. DBC is advocating for provincial governments to report breast density to women, and to provide supplemental screening, such as ultrasound, for women with the densest breasts.

The issues surrounding the misdiagnosis of women who have dense breasts when they have mammograms are alarming. The false sense of security most women have is tragic and life threatening because they are not informed of the fact that they have dense breast tissue by various organisations that control mammograms.

Women in B.C. have a right to know the implications and vagaries in the way our mammograms are read and interpreted, they are playing with our lives.

Delayed diagnosis can kill.

To bring this problem into to focus for Island women, the article below is written by an Island woman who has endured the agony, the pain and the stress of misdiagnosis.

We owe it to her, to ourselves, and to all women, to demand change in the way in which the dense breasts and mammograms knowledge and information is shared and addressed. Our lives depend on it.

Trish Summerhayes.
Owner/Publisher – Island Woman Magazine.



Trisha’s dense breasts – can you guess which one has cancer? No? Neither can radiologists.



Every time I think about the destiny that was planned for me by a healthcare system I trusted, the words of an Ed Sheeran song play in my head, “Memories of a life that’s been loved…but mum, there’s a tear every time that I blink…oh, I’m in pieces, it’s tearing me up, but I know a heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved.” These words haunt me. Is this what my daughter would have played to console her of my loss? Are these the words that will play for other moms across the country that didn’t get lucky like me? Why should I ever have had to contemplate this at all? The health authorities knew I would probably die and said nothing. The technology to save me was available. They know that 800,000 other women like me are out there and they aren’t saying anything to them either. Instead, their children will get to clean up the Supermarket Flowers that have died, flowers they were given for their moms. Flowers that should have never have had to be bought. 

I had significantly dense breasts and a close family history of breast cancer. Untreated and not properly monitored, this combination was a death sentence for me and they knew and said nothing. Every time, I had a mammogram – in three provinces, all three health authorities failed to tell me my breast density was a significant independent risk factor for breast cancer and combined with my family history, I was at high risk for breast cancer. I thought at first I slipped through the cracks, but it turns out the health authorities have known for a long while. 1976 was the first time research confirmed this significant risk and for years research has piled up confirming it over and over. But the health authorities have remained silent.

Mammograms were successful in showing I had very dense breasts, but they were never going to reveal my breast cancer, not until it was too late anyway. I got very lucky by fluke a bone scan revealed soft tissue uptake in my right breast, so when the mammogram falsely revealed no cancer, they were forced to dig deeper and looked at my breast with ultrasound, but still nothing. Luckily, they couldn’t leave the bone scan unexplained and well, my mother had breast cancer twice before 50, so I was sent for a MRI. It revealed the truth, I had suspicious masses in my breast after all and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. In fact, I had 10 masses – both invasive lobular and ductal carcinoma, but the mammogram was blind to it all. It could only see white, that could be just dense breast tissue or both cancer and breast dense tissue. Ironically, at 40, I started the breast screening program and was declared clear of cancer despite the time bomb growing in my chest.

trish picI’m mostly just angry now, that I was one of the ones chosen to die. Angry enough that I want every woman in Canada to know that you need to ask about your breast density, so you know your risk and can make informed healthcare choices for yourself. It’s not right that they know you are probably going to die unless treated and say nothing.

Their complicit silence is deafening and your children don’t want to be left with your dead Supermarket Flowers, they just want you.

Force them out of their silence and ask how dense are my breasts?



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  1. Thanks for publishing this Trish.

    I will make sure to ask more questions and will include queries around bone scan when I go for testing in Feb.

    • You’re welcome. So they don’t usually use a bone scan to screen for breast cancer, but ask for your density and if you are category c or d, ask for an ultrasound. The bone scan in my case was for an arm injury and without that injury I would not have had the bone scan.

  2. Well said, Trish

  3. Thank you for sharing your story Trish so that women can learn about this significant risk for breast cancer. You are saving lives!

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