A simple question could increase your chance of early breast cancer detection

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It was Valentine’s Day 2018, and Margie Singleton, an Acclarent Executive ENT Consultant from Savannah, Georgia, was having a lump on her right breast examined. It was the second one she’d found in a six-month period and it would eventually turn up clear on her mammogram report. But this time, Margie knew something wasn’t right, and she was determined to get answers.

A simple question could increase your chance of early breast cancer detection

When Margie turned 40, as guidelines suggest, she began getting annual mammograms. Year after year, each one came back clear. However, in August of 2017 she found a lump on her left breast. Concerned, she went for a 3D mammogram and like her annual exams, it came back clear. Feeling relieved, she went about her life as usual.

Fast forward to February 2018 and Margie once again found herself at a local imaging center, this time with a lump on her right breast that was sore to the touch. Guess what happened this time? It came back clear again. Given Margie’s history, her doctor also ordered an ultrasound, which picked up something the mammograms failed to find. Margie was headed for a biopsy. A week later it was confirmed: Margie had stage 2B breast cancer. The tumor measured 3.6cm and the cancer had already made its way into several of her lymph nodes.

A simple question could increase your chance of early breast cancer detection

Margie did everything right. So, how could this happen?

Her surgeon explained the reason her cancer was going undetected for so long was because she had dense breast tissue. “He told me that trying to find my cancer on a mammogram is like trying to find cancer in a snow blizzard. It’s nearly impossible,” said Margie.

The American Cancer Society defines dense breasts as having a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat in the breasts. Breast density cannot be felt, it can only be seen on mammograms and can make finding cancer extremely difficult. In addition, breastcancer.org says if you have dense breasts you are six times more likely to develop breast cancer.

A simple question could increase your chance of early breast cancer detection

As of today, there are 36 states where women must be told of their breast density in their mammogram reports. Georgia, where Margie lives, happens to be a state where no law exists. She is prepared to change that.

After sharing her story on Facebook, a former colleague introduced Margie to Nancy Cappello, a breast cancer survivor and founder of Are you Dense, Inc., a non-profit organization focused on breast density education that has helped pass laws in those 36 states. After the two teamed up, “Margie’s Law” was born.

The mission of Margie’s Law is to ensure women in Georgia receive proper education and notification of their breast density. Margie and her “Army,” a group of her close girlfriends, have met with key legislators in Savannah and members of the House of Representatives. Two of those representatives have agreed to sponsor the bill which be voted on by congress in January 2019.

A simple question could increase your chance of early breast cancer detection

For Margie, this law can’t come soon enough. Since February, she has had six chemo treatments, a double mastectomy, reconstruction and is currently going through radiation. But that is not slowing her down. “I am bound and determined to educate as many women as possible with my story, because if this could happen to me, it could happen to thousands of others.”

So, what about you? Are you dense? It’s a simple question, the answer to which could increase your chance of early breast cancer detection.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, educate yourselves and your loved ones about breast density.

You can follow the progress of Margie’s Law on Facebook.