Name: Leslie Mulcahy

Date of Diagnosis: Sept 18, 2012

Age at Diagnosis: 53

Stage of Diagnosis: Two tumors – Both Stage 1

Time from “normal” mammogram to diagnosis: 3 weeks

How was cancer detected? By ultrasound & MRI

My story: In August 2012, I had my annual mammogram which was “normal’ and decided to have an added ultrasound since I knew that I had dense breast tissue. The ultrasound revealed a suspicious lesion and a biopsy was ordered. On September 27, 2012, I received the dreaded news that the biopsy confirmed invasive cancer. Additional ultrasounds and MRI revealed the second tumor. The pathology results reported a Stage 1, early, invasive and aggressive estrogen-feeding cancer. My family and friends were shocked when I reported that my cancer was detected by a voluntary ultrasound, not by mammogram. My mastectomy was done on November 27, 2012. Luckily, all nodes and margin pathology came back negative – no need for radiation or chemo. Reconstruction surgeries followed. I’m now on tamoxifen therapy for 10 years and have a MRI and ultrasound every six months to monitor the other breast. I am so grateful that I was able to have access to an early cancer diagnosis because of the added ultrasound. I am sharing my story with the hope that more lives can be saved when later stage cancers are reduced as women understand the impact of dense breast tissue on delayed diagnosis. Visit www.areyoudense.org to learn more about this issue. A doctor told me about this informative site a few months after my surgery.

My reaction when I was first diagnosed: I was shocked. Because my mammogram from three weeks prior was negative, I never expected to hear that I had two malignant tumors lurking behind dense tissue.

How I’m feeling now: Absolutely terrific and incredibly grateful. Yet, not one day goes by that I don’t think about it and how it could have been so much worse.

My inspirations: My mom, who bravely confronted cancer twice.  Many many people I have met that have fought much bigger battles than I could ever imagine.

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My support system: My incredible husband who cared for me every moment, my absolutely amazing and caring surgeons and the most loving circle of family and friends.

I’m proud of: My inner voice that told me not to be passive. My gut told me to push my way through the system and insist on getting an ultrasound (even when I was told it wasn’t necessary). I actually lied to get my ultrasound. My early detection saved my life. It did not prevent my mastectomy, but it kept me from an advanced stage of cancer or needing radiation and chemo.

I’m afraid of: I fear that cancer will return in the future. I’m afraid that thousands of women will be diagnosed at later stages of breast cancer due to dense breast tissue preventing early detection.

I’ve learned: I’ve learned that we must be our own advocate when it comes to our health and that being pushy is totally OK. I’ve also learned to take whatever comes your way one small step at a time. Never lose your sense of humor – it can get you through just about anything. Above all, be prayerful. It’s very, very powerful.

My advice to new patients: Every woman must find out if they have dense breast tissue. If they do, they must insist on further screening.  Educate yourself, advocate for yourself, and never, ever be passive. Push until you get what you need.  And always share what you have learned with others.

To see more of our 31 Survivors in 31 Days stories, click here!