Elizabeth Edwards' Recurrence and the Importance of Breast Cancer Screening

Judith Rosenthal Schwartz Community Member April 10, 2007
  • As all of us who've had breast cancer will agree, Elizabeth Edwards' news hits us hard.  I think it's important to say, once again, that a clear mammogram cannot be relied upon for women with dense breasts.  Eighteen months ago I found a 5 cm. lump in my breast.  I literally found it - there I was sitting at my dinner table, gesticulating, when my right hand went to my chest for emphasis and my fingertips felt the lump.  Understand this - at no point did my lump EVER appear on a mammogram.  And this was a big, honking one.  Even when a metal thread was run through prior to a lumpectomy, the mammogram showed the metal thread but never the lump.  Only ultrasound revealed the size and shape of it.  My diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer followed, and I am now in remission after a grueling year of treatment.

     

    If I had relied on mammograms to determine if I had breast cancer, God only knows what would have happened.

4 Comments
  • Betsy
    Dec. 08, 2010

    Twelve years ago at age 35, before ever having a mammogram, I discovered a lump in my breast... The subsequent mammogram never showed the lump, but clearly it was there... After a surgical biopsy I discovered I had abnormal hyperplasia, which indicated that I was fine but at higher risk for cancer.  Due to this risk, I was under the care of a surgeon for...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Twelve years ago at age 35, before ever having a mammogram, I discovered a lump in my breast... The subsequent mammogram never showed the lump, but clearly it was there... After a surgical biopsy I discovered I had abnormal hyperplasia, which indicated that I was fine but at higher risk for cancer.  Due to this risk, I was under the care of a surgeon for 6 years to be monitored and have for the past 6 years had ultrasounds in addition to my mammo, when indicated, which seemed to be yearly.  I would just ask my gyno to write a prescription ordering the ultrasound the same day as the mammo.  This September 2010, I found another lump, and once again the mammo did not show it, but the ultrasound did... On Nov 12, i was told I had cancer...after many tests and a little delay in my initial appt, I had the 1.9cm lump removed today, along with my sentinel lymph node... surgeon says stage one, but full pathology will be available next week. So, I tell my family and friends not to simply trust one's mammo, especially if you have dense breasts. If I had not found BOTH of my lumps, no mammo ever showed them, who knows where I'd be today.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Dec. 08, 2010

      Betsy, kudos to you for being so proactive about understanding what your breasts feel like normally, and then noticing a lump and reporting it. Your quick action might very well end up saving your life... Best of luck to you as you go through treatment. PJH

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Nov. 01, 2009

    Just found out my breast cancer I had at age 38 has reoccured after 8 years in the same breast and near the previous tumor.  Just did my annual mamogram 4 months ago which was fine. I had no idea it would not detect a  the lump of this size. I felt it myelf at 1.3 cm and went to show my regular doctor who sent me to get a MRI.  Did not think ...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Just found out my breast cancer I had at age 38 has reoccured after 8 years in the same breast and near the previous tumor.  Just did my annual mamogram 4 months ago which was fine. I had no idea it would not detect a  the lump of this size. I felt it myelf at 1.3 cm and went to show my regular doctor who sent me to get a MRI.  Did not think  it would reoccur.  In 2001 I caught it early, had 10 clean lympth nodes, lumpectomy, chemo and radiation, no family history.  The advice I share is do a monthly exam and know your nodules.  Go to the doctor as soon as you notice one growing.

  • Anonymous
    Sarah
    Apr. 10, 2007
    Great point, Judith.  Radiologists have known for a long time that mammograms are not ideal for detecting breast tumors in women with dense breasts. That's why they were so excited about the DMIST trial that indicated that digital mammography was slightly better for women with dense breasts (see PJ's SharePost for more details). Nevertheless, we...
    RHMLucky777
    Read More
    Great point, Judith.  Radiologists have known for a long time that mammograms are not ideal for detecting breast tumors in women with dense breasts. That's why they were so excited about the DMIST trial that indicated that digital mammography was slightly better for women with dense breasts (see PJ's SharePost for more details). Nevertheless, we are still looking for that better option.

    Sarah
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