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The Risk Factor No Doctor Told Me About

I have been having mammograms since I was 35, because I have a family history of breast cancer in both of my parents families. My Father’s mom passed away at age 42 and my Mother’s aunt passed away at age 46, both died from breast cancer. Because of my family history I knew I was at a higher risk for getting breast cancer myself and so I took all the necessary precautions.

I received all clear mammograms until my 45th birthday on August 19, 2014. That was the first time my diagnostic mammogram came back abnormal. I was sent for another mammogram that confirmed abnormalities and I was sent for an immediate ultrasound.

The head of radiology came in the room I was waiting in. She said she sees this all the time and she was 97% sure this was breast cancer.

I had biopsies done on both breasts. The results were positive for breast cancer.

Stage 3b invasive lobular carcinoma on the left side.

Stage 1 invasive lobular carcinoma with heavy lymph node involvement on the right side, 18 out of 24 were positive for breast cancer.

I don’t drink, smoke or do any drugs and I breastfed both of my daughters.

What I also had, that no one ever told me at any of my “clear” mammogram appointments, was dense breast tissue.

This is the risk factor that I never knew about.

I thought I was doing everything right to be screened early to be diagnosed at an early stage.

I had a complete mastectomy on my left side in October 2014 and in November a lumpectomy on my right side. Followed by six months of chemotherapy, adromyacin and cytoxan, then 12 treatments of taxol and 55 rounds radiation.

I had just finished, it was summer. I was so ready to move forward and put these treatments behind me when the cancer came back in my right breast. It was Stage 2 this time. I had a complete mastectomy on the right in January of 2016.

I now have cancerous masses in my lungs. We don’t know if it’s metasteses from breast cancer or cancer caused by the radiation I received when being treated for breast cancer. I will be having a lobectomy in January of 2017.

I’ve learned so much since my diagnosis. I want to tell everyone about my story. Even tho I am upset that no one ever told me I had dense breasts or what it meant for me. I should have been told I needed an ultrasound in addition to a mammogram for screening. My breast cancer wasn’t discovered until I was Stage 3b.

I will never know if my diagnosis and outcome would have been different if they had screened me appropriately, but I will always wonder. I want other women to know that they should get an ultrasound if they have dense breasts. I hope that women can learn from my story and can be helped by it.

Bella Ativan, 47

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