Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gamma Ray Technology for Dense Breast Tissue ?

Continuing with my search, I came across this new technology to detect tumors in Dense Breast Tissue, and I thought on sharing it with you...

Dr. Deborah Rhodes: A tool that finds 3x more breast tumors, and why it’s not available to you

Dr. Deborah Rhodes is an expert at managing breast-cancer risk. The director of the Mayo Clinic’s Executive Health Program is now testing a gamma camera that can see tumors that get missed by mammography.


Working with a team of physicists, Dr. Deborah Rhodes developed a new tool for tumor detection that's 3 times as effective as traditional mammograms for women with dense breast tissue. The life-saving implications are stunning. So why haven't we heard of it? Rhodes shares the story behind the tool's creation, and the web of politics and economics that keep it from mainstream use.


I would like to ask Dr Rhodes about the injection of radiation that one needs to receive in order for the Gamma Rays to detect cancer on Dense Breast Tissue; are there secondary effects to this injection? Is there a chance of allergic reactions to the injection?

Other than that, it seems to be a wonderful tool and I hope it can be available to all soon.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Connecticut the only state that requires mammography reports to include breast density information

Former Connecticut Governor Jody Rell, a breast cancer survivor, signed in 2009 a bill that standardizes the communication of breast density.

Senator Crisco's breast density bill is signed into law by Governor Rell.
Featured left to right: Cheryl Cepelak and Anne Morris of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Representative Steve Fontana, Governor Rell, Nancy Cappello, Senator Crisco, and Joseph Cappello.
According to this bill...

"S.B. 458 requires all mammography reports given to a patient on and after October 1, 2009 to include information about breast density. When applicable, the report must include the following notice: If your mammogram demonstrates that you have dense breast tissue, which could hide small abnormalities, you might benefit from supplementary screening tests, which can include a breast ultrasound screening or a breast MRI examination, or both, depending on your individual risk factors."

"Connecticut General Statute Sections 38a-503 and 38a-530 requires insurance companies to provide coverage for comprehensive ultrasound screening of an entire breast or breasts if a mammogram demonstrates heterogeneous or dense breast tissue based on the BIRADS (Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System) established by the American College of Radiology (ACR). "

To see a copy of the Connecticut Law that has been passed already; please see http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/ACT/PA/2009PA-00041-R00SB-00458-PA.htm 

Connecticut lead the way and other states are starting to do their part. Florida introduced a bill this month on mammograms reports to include information about breast density of the patient. The effective date of this bill is October 2011. New York State's Breast Density Inform Law S 8488, is about to be introduced to the State Senate this month. Just to name a few of the states that are already working to fix this issue

However, we can also do our part letting the legislators know of the importance for every women to know her breast density. So, here is a petition to make it a Law in the rest of the states:

Breast Density Facts

2/3 of pre-menopausal and 1/4 of post menopausal women have dense breast tissue and many don't even know it.

Cancer is 5 times more likely in women with extremely dense breasts.

A mammogram will find ONLY 48% of tumors in women with dense breast tissue (and therefore elude early detection)

Breast Density is one of the strongest predictors of the failure of mammography screening to detect cancer.

Cancer recurrence is four times more likely with women with dense breasts.

The vast majority of women are utterly unaware of their own breast density. A May 2010 national survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 95% of women ages 40+ do not know their breast density and nearly 90% did not know it increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Why? Their Doctor's have never had a discussion with them about it because there is no set protocol.

You can sign the petition HERE

...and always remember to do your monthly self- breast exams and have your physician conduct a thorough yearly breast exam. Have a mammogram.

The mammogram distinguishes the density of a woman’s breasts.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scary side of Dense Breast Tissue and Mammograms

Continuing with my research I found at About.com on Breast Cancer, this useful information (with mammogram images of different breast tissues) and I though to share it with you. So here it is...

Normal Fatty Breast Tissue on a Mammogram
Normal Fatty Breast Tissue on a Mammogram
National Cancer Institute

Description: Shown is a mammogram of a normal fatty breast, typical of older women. Diagnosis of abnormal lesions or cancer is more accurate in non-dense breasts.

Mammograms work best on fatty breasts because they have less areas of density (whiter masses). Breast masses which usually cause concern are lighter than normal dense tissue.

Normal Dense Breast Tissue on a Mammogram
Normal Dense Breast Tissue on a Mammogram
 National Cancer Institute
Description: Shown are 2 mammograms of normal dense breasts. A dense breast makes a mammographic image difficult to read when and if cancerous lesions are present. These images are typical of breast of younger women.

Premenopausal women, especially women who have never been pregnant, may have dense breast tissue. (I have three children and have Dense Breast Tissue, so this is not always the rule) These are normal dense breasts. Because fatty breasts are easier for a mammogram to see through, dense breast tissue can sometimes hide outlines of areas that need closer study. If a particular area needs a better image, an ultrasound is usually the next step.

Breast Cancer Tumor on Mammogram
Breast Cancer Tumor on Mammogram
National Cancer Institute

Description: Shown is a mammogram of a fatty breast with an obvious cancer, indicated by an arrow in lower right corner.

A cancerous tumor in the breast is a mass of breast tissue that is growing in an abnormal, uncontrolled way.  The tumor may invade surrounding tissue or shed cells into the bloodstream or lymph system.

Dr. Dwight Kaufman. Diagnosis: Mammogram: Normal Dense National Cancer Institute. February 1994.

See more examples of what mammograms look like depending on the type of tissue:

Women in the last two groups have Dense Breast Tissue ...

Dr Jennifer Engels, MD
Breast Imaging Specialist
The Cooper Clinic, McKinney, TX

I hope this information was useful to you.... until my next post!

Monday, January 17, 2011

PERSONAL STORY: A story of courage and strength by Dora Ficher

<<I was 34 when diagnosed...

The way my cancer was found was because I had a lump on my right breast. Went to the doc, got a mammogram. That ended up being a milk gland (I was still breastfeeding). But...they found calcifications in my other breast. Did studies, biopsy, etc... and was diagnosed.

Since I was 1st diagnosed at the age of 34 it all seemed like a big nightmare... that I would wake up and it would be gone... that "maybe the doctor made a mistake." That this could not be happening to me because I had an 18 month old (baby boy)... From there I went to feelings of great fear....I remember telling my mother how afraid I was of dying…that I was too young to die. The doctor had said to me that he did not know what my prognosis was…that if we were sitting talking to each other in 5 years that maybe he could tell me a little more… that I had stage 3 and it had spread to my lymph nodes. It was very hard trying to listen to all this knowing that my son… (whom I had to suddenly stop breast feeding with no explanation that he would understand) …might have to grow up without me. That was my greatest fear… not being here to watch him grow.  I remember thinking, well… maybe I can see him until he is about 5… no 10… until one day I woke up and said to myself… No more of this kind of thinking… I AM going to be around… this disease will not beat me. I am too young; he is too young… I started intensive psychotherapy, and started doing visualization with a wonderful woman who was my mom’s best friend (also a psychologist…. who worked with people going through cancer…. chemo…) I remember imagining and seeing my bad cells and killing them off keeping all the good cells intact. It was like a war inside my body that I was going to win. I was determined!!!

So… between my yearlong chemo… my mastectomy, and my visualization, things started to look better. And here I am 25 and half years later. Thank Goodness... all good today... I take it a day at a time. >>

Dora Ficher is a Fine Artist who lives and works in Center City, Philadelphia.

Her blog: http://doraficherartblog.com/blog/

Dora Ficher (front row) with her Team "Breast Wars" during
The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk-2007

Sunday, January 16, 2011

BRCA Mutation Awareness and Education

In the meantime... I'm donating all proceeds from the sales of my pocket mirrors with the printed image of "Awareness" to the Downey Sisters' Fund FOR BRCA MUTATION AWARENESS AND EDUCATION established by Phebe and Frederick Downey, to honor their daughters: Ann Downey Little • Margaret Downey Hardy • Katherine Downey Berges • Martha Downey Lemp

The fund its been used to educate the public and the medical community about the genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Phebe and Fred (Center) with daughters (from left to right)
Ann, Meg, Kate and Marti

Here is their story: << Each of our four daughters was determined to have a BRCA1 gene mutation in the summer of 2009. This was after one of their paternal second cousins was diagnosed with breast cancer, and tested positive for a specific BRCA1 mutation which runs in families of Irish/English descent. The hereditary factor became obvious enough to merit active attention.

Fred was tested first and found to have the mutation; our daughters then moved quickly, and unfortunately, each of the four also tested positive. This confirmed some knowledge that had been denied us: hereditary cancers can and do come through the male line. All four of our daughters are in various stages of research, prophylactic surgeries, and treatment. Shockingly, Ann is now battling early stage breast cancer and Martha, early stage ovarian cancer. In each case, awareness of the BRCA1 mutation led to earlier diagnosis than would have occurred otherwise.  Both Kate and Meg are in the process of undergoing prophylactic surgeries, and we hope and pray that no further cancers are discovered. 

The sadness, the shock, and the diagnoses prompted us to act. We chose FORCE as our avenue because its mission included "to raise awareness of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer" and "to promote research specific to hereditary cancer".  This fund will be targeted towards education of both the public and the medical community, so that through it, we might be able to lessen procedures, ease suffering, and best of all, save lives.>>

I have posted a permanent link in the right margin of this blog for you to buy the pocket mirrors any time you want.

To learn more about the Downey Sister's Fund, please click here. You can also donate directly to their fund here.

"Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain." ... Anonymous

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Awareness" for a cause!! An update...

This is my third post here, in this new blog, and I want to recap so you know where I stand until now with my research...

Following up in my search for someone to give my sculpture "Awareness" to, I have met some very interesting people, who have given me lots of useful information. I was also interviewed by Ann Nyberg, a Connecticut TV anchor (WTNH-TV news) and a lovely human being, for her fresh and uplifting blog, Annie Mame.com.

Ann's blog is dedicated to showcase all the extraordinary people and places in our beautiful nutmeg state of Connecticut. So, it was an honor for me to be interviewed by her, and it has helped me to spread my message further more. Here is a link to her blog post:

Besides, I was featured with my sculpture "Awareness" at the Celebrate the Healing Power of Art blog:

"The purpose of Celebrate The Healing Power of ART, founded by Renee Phillips, Director of Manhattan Arts International, is to Promote ART and all aspects of CREATIVITY and its vital importance to healing individuals and the planet. We believe that when Artists create healing Art they not only experience a healing process within themselves, their Art also has a healing impact on viewers." Excerpt from their blog.

I'm currently looking into each one of the recommendations I have received, and hopefully soon, I will have someone to donate my artwork to. But, most of all I would like to make a difference with this donation, it would be too easy to just give it away to any of the wonderful foundations out there, but then my donation would just disappear in the air... I WANT TO MAKE A FUSS!! I want to make a difference with my donation, I want to see the change for the better in the current screening technology for women with Dense Breast Tissue.

To wrap it all for now, I would like to thank all of you who have shown interest in what I'm trying to do and to those of you who have given me names of people and/or foundation working on Dense Breast Tissue. I really appreciate your efforts. Also, a big thank you to the brave women that are starting to give me their stories to share here with you. Stay tune!

...and remember, PLEASE take good care of yourselves and the lovely ladies in your lives!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Here's my story, the story of AWARENESS!

It was the year 2006, when I received the results from a routine mammogram that read: “probably benign: needs to be reevaluated in 6 months.” This is a result that no one wants to receive... is it benign or not? would I have cancer or not? imagine repeating that in your head every day for 6 months? What kind of result is that?

I had lost a lot of weight, 40 pounds to be exact. I was eating very healthy, exercising, and taking good care of my self. The doctor said that, because I have Dense Breast Tissue and had lost so much weight since my last mammogram, the radiologist couldn't know for sure that, what she was seeing in the x-ray, were in fact cysts or just my dense tissue. For this reason I had to wait six months to repeat the mammogram.

Meanwhile, one of my sisters in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She have had her ovaries and uterus removed a few years before and "supposedly" didn't have cancer then. Now she had develop cancer of the peritoneum, with metastasis in the liver... Fortunately, she overcame all odds and even though it came back two years ago, she's now cancer free, and we pray for her to stay that way.

I'm telling you all these because the doctors never found the primary cancer on my sister in-law, but for what I have read, the type of cancer she developed is very common on women that had ovarian cancer.

So all these, her diagnosis, my crazy results, and the facts I read on-line, were all wondering around in my head, which motivated me to create AWARENESS. At first, it was a mean for me to release stress. Working with "mud" has tons of health benefits, and when one creates something beautiful out of something horrible, that in itself is healing.

Later on, when the piece was finished I wanted to display it in as many venues as I could hoping it would bring healing to the people that saw it, and inspire women to take a more proactive approach to stay healthy. Yet, since its conception, all I wanted was to donate it to women cancer.

Imaging what I felt, every time Awareness was juried into an exhibition and much more, when it received the Best in Sculpture award at the Manhattan Arts International at the HerStory online Competition, NYC, in 2009.

Recapitulating, I waited my six months patiently and went back for my mammogram and the results that time were: Negative. What a relief!

Ever since then, I go for my routine mammogram every year, but now they order a sonogram every time as well. Dense breast tissue tend to be the perfect environment for cysts, and I'm not the exception. I have a few they need to check on every time. I also do my monthly self-exam and that's how I have found the cysts. I just try to make sure they don't grow...which is not an easy task...

Last year, after it appeared in the news that mammograms were not really necessary every year and so forth, I still went for my regular check up, but, at the time, my sonogram was not covered by my insurance. So, I changed insurance company. Let's see what happens this year! I'll keep you posted.

One thing that really bothers me is that why do we, women with Dense Breast Tissue, have to go through the radiation of a mammogram if it doesn't read our kind of breast tissue? I believe sonograms read better Dense Breast Tissue, though it still makes mistakes... in my humble opinion.

Non of the answers I have found out there have pleased me, not even that of my GYN. But still I'm here about to make my yearly appointment (Just got the postcard reminding me)...

Note: The ribbon in these pictures was the original I made, but unfortunately it got broken while the piece was drying. So I had to made a new one for it. This process was rather challenging because clay shrinks and when one wants pieces to fit together they have to be made at the same time, so the dry together. Since the body of the sculpture had already started to dry I had to put plastic on top of it and work the new ribbon, making it a little larger, so when it shrank it would fit perfectly, or close to perfect.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Art, Dense Breast Tissue and Breast Cancer

Last year I published this post on my Art Blog:

My dear readers, I've made a sculpture with the idea not only to raise awareness about breast cancer - women cancer - but also to give it away, to donate it to a foundation that researches for a cure to breast cancer or women cancer.

So, after having it shown in several venues around Connecticut and in NYC, and viewed internationally through web-based galleries, it's time for me to part from it, and for this I NEED YOUR HELP.

I've tried to find the right foundation but there are so many out there that it's hard to choose from... I do know, however, that many, many women, like me, have dense breast tissue which makes it harder for mammograms to detect abnormalities in the breast. You see, dense areas in the breast show up as white in the mammograms, as well as tumors that also show up as white. To make it even worse for us, in a recent study they have found that the cells that make up dense breast tissue may be a more fertile ground for cancer cells to grow in. The studies even suggested that the cancer cells found in women with dense breast tissue tend to be more aggressive that in women with normal breast tissue.

Therefore, since women with dense breast tissue seem to be more likely to get breast cancer and it's harder to be detected early, I would like to donate my sculpture AWARENESS to a foundation researching for a better way to diagnose and prevent Breast Cancer in women with Dense Breast Tissue. So, if you know of a foundation that would benefit on using my work as a fundraiser for their research efforts, as well as to serve as a reminder that we all women need to be aware of the risks and that we need to take prevention into our hands, please let me know. I would really appreciate it.

stoneware on cedar wood
10"h x 8"w x 8"d
Best in Sculpture at the Manhattan Arts International HerStory online Competition, NYC, 2009
(c) Corina S. Alvarezdelugo

NOTE: Since the best medicine is prevention, please women out there do your monthly breast self-exam and have your mammogram done once a year, at least until we know of something better. 

This article has created a lot of buzz and that's just what we want, so I decided to make a new blog dedicated just to this issue.

Here, I will keep you updated on my search to donate my sculpture. I will write about what motivated me to create this sculpture. I'll have links to useful websites related to prevention and information about Dense Breast Tissue. Though, this blog would be nothing without YOU!

So, please, feel at home, browse around, make comments to my posts (I promise to reply back), and if you want to tell your story, please, feel free to email it to me at DBTAWARENESS {at} GMAIL.COM. I'll be happy to post it here.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a doctor or medical professional, I'm just an artist, a woman, who happens to have Dense Breast Tissue. If you have medical questions or concerns, please ask your physician or medical practitioner.
Please, read the complete disclaimer at the bottom of the blog. Thank you