Tuesday, September 19, 2023

PROCLAMATION: 9/27 Is World Dense Breast Tissue Day

9/19/2023- Mr. Joe Cappello, co-founder of the "Are You Dense?" Foundation was invited to attend the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting at County Government Center to receive an official proclamation by Santa Clara County Supervisor (and former California State Senator) JOE SIMITIAN, officially confirming September 27 as World Dense Breast Tissue Day.  According to Mr. Simitian, this proclamation was sparked by earlier discussions about the late Nancy Cappello who passed away of breast-cancer related complications from dense breast tissue.  "(Nancy's) own life experience... said others should have more power, more knowledge, more ability to affect the decision making in their own healthcare. For this, we are a better state, a better county, and in fact a better nation by virtue of her work."

To date, Joe Cappello continues to build and promote educational programs supporting research, clinical upgrades and improved scanning/monitoring programs.  The "Are You Dense?" Foundation and "Are You Dense?" Advocacy are produced by the Cappellos in pursuit of saving lives through awareness through uniting with community leaders, clinical professionals and public recognition off the continued risks of having dense breast tissue.

TRANSCRIPT OF PROCLAMATION: 9/19/2023- County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors

SPEAKER: Santa Clara County (CA) Supervisor Joe Simitian- District 5

Thank you, Madam President. And I'm going to look to the clerk to see if we can bring Mr. Joe Cappello from “Are You Dense?” in Connecticut up on the screen. I'll ask for a moment of patience, colleagues. 

Colleagues and members of the public, you'll recall of course that just last week, we adjourned our meeting in memory of Nancy Cappello, who passed away almost five years ago now. And it provided an opportunity for our board to reflect on Nancy's extraordinary work over literally decades. We also took the opportunity at our last meeting to express our formal support for the Find It Early Act which is an effort at the national level congressional level to take the next step in terms of addressing the cancer risk of women with dense breast tissue. Today, we are calling out the formal acknowledgement of World Dense Breast Tissue Day. And the reason for that, Joe, and colleagues and members of the public is to ensure that we take advantage of this opportunity to identify September 27th as World Dense Breast Tissue Day, so that members of the public will have the information, the knowledge, the power that Nancy Cappello thought they were entitled to all those years ago.

And as we have discussed previously (so I won't speak at quite substantial length today) this is information that patients need to have. They are now entitled to have it by law.  That entitlement is in large measure, a function of the fact that Nancy Cappello took her own life experience and said others should have more power, more knowledge, more ability to affect the decision making in their own healthcare. For this, we are a better state, a better county, and in fact a better nation by virtue of her work.

Joe, if you were here, I would have you up to the podium and I would hand you the physical commendation. But by virtue of our virtual connection today, I will virtually present it to you and we will send you the physical commendation and I hope it will find a place at “Are You Dense?”. 

I'm guessing that your screen-? It doesn't reveal it, but I am wearing on my lapel the “Are You Dense?” button which I wore all those years ago when I was privileged to work with Nancy and the organization on California law. With that, Madam President, I say thank you to our board, and to my colleagues for their support on this measure and through the chair. With your permission, I'd like to give Mr. Cappello an opportunity to say a brief word or two.

Guest Speaker: JOE CAPPELLO
Well, thank you, Senator. As I said before, it's a real pleasure. I finally got to meet the other Joe in Nancy's life. And believe me, she always had kind words to say about you, and you were always a standup guy. You were the one that she could count on for honesty and truthfulness when we were doing our legislative work in California.  What we have now is a disclosure law, which is a national law, which will take effect a year from now.  This is huge step for the health of women all over this nation. What it's going to do is standardize (diagnostic care) in the medical field for women with dense breasts. I thank you in the name of Nancy for the proclamation. She deserves it all. She worked hard and worked smart. She was not only prettier than me, <laugh>, but smarter than me. And, I thank you on her behalf. I appreciate that. Thank you.

Thank you, Joe Cappello.  Thanks to "Are You Dense?" And thank you Madam President. We appreciate the work.

The Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Clara, CA regularly meets in the Board of Supervisors’ Chambers, County Government Center, 70 West Hedding Street, San Jose. Regular meetings are held on designated Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. The Board also holds regular meetings for the purpose of adjourning into Closed Session on Mondays at 2:00 p.m., which may be combined with meetings scheduled for the presentation of ceremonial items to be heard at 4:00 p.m.

Original airing: 10/2021 



Dr. Noelle Cutter drives the spirit of Dr. Nancy Cappello's mission for early cancer detection for women with dense breasts alongside Dr. Robert Bard's dense breast screening pilot program (8/27-29) - and the global pursuit to expand current screening standards.

What Does It Mean to Have Dense Breasts?

A mammogram shows how dense your breasts are. When you get the results of your mammogram, you may also be told if your breasts have low or high density. Women with dense breasts have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

A woman’s breast has three kinds of tissue: FIBROUS TISSUE holds the breast tissue in place.  GLANDULAR TISSUE is the part of the breast that makes milk, called the lobes, and the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, called ducts. Together, fibrous and glandular tissue are called fibroglandular tissue.  FATTY TISSUE fills the space between the fibrous tissue, lobes, and ducts. It gives the breasts their size and shape.

BREAST CANCER RISK: Women with dense breasts have a higher chance of getting breast cancer. The more dense your breasts are, the higher your risk. Scientists don’t know for sure why this is true. Breast cancer patients who have dense breasts are not more likely to die from breast cancer than patients with non-dense (fatty) breasts.

7/8/2021- A wave of recognized medical sites, journals and reports  are now indicating that dense breast tissue increases the risk of developing breast cancer and often masks a tumor from being seen on the mammogram since dense tissue is white and cancerous tissue is also white. Mammograms are the standard screening test for breast cancer, however, in the 21st Century, ultrasound non invasive imaging is the preferred exam for dense “lumpy” mammary disease.   The 1st World Conference of Breast Ultrasound in Philadelphia (1979) recognized ultrasound superiority in dense breast diagnostics but the density level was never quantified until recently. Mammography assessment of breast density is graded into four categories. Mammographers readily admit that these levels are subjective at best and technical factors such as mammary tissue compression and x-ray voltage/amperage dramatically influence the darkness or whiteness of the image.


Written by: Dr. Robert L. Bard

Decades since the advent of breast scanning technology, innovations in non-invasive diagnostic imaging provide new options in the field of early detection. These technologies directly align with breast density screening (and are part of the Bard Breast Density Diagnostic Program) include:

• Doppler blood flow
• Contrast enhanced ultrasound vascularity 
• 3D Vessel Density Histogram 
• 4D Volumetric Density Histogram
• Strain and shear wave tissue Elastography 
• 3T MRI 
• Optical Computed Tomography (OCT) for nipple lesions
• Reflectance Confocal Microscopy (RCM)  for dermal invasion
• Hybrid Mammo Imaging Fusion
 Trans Illumination
 Near Infrared Specroscopy

Hybrid imaging refers to combining diagnostic modalities to assess disease and monitor therapy. A useful combination of options is the tumor vessel flow density to assess aggression and treatment progress. Similarly, tissue elastography is useful for border detection of malignant masses.

FOR COMPLETE DETAILS ON THIS PROGRAM, VISIT: http://breastcancernyc.com/

Monday, September 18, 2023

Epigenetic Research Notes: Profiling the Dense Breast Paradigm

Written by: Dr. Roberta Kline

As an Ob-Gyn physician and genomics specialist, I have spent the better part of 10 years translating research in the genomic and gene expression areas into clinically usable information for healthcare professionals. One of the biggest challenges we face when connecting research with patient care is the long delay in the translation process and dissemination of the information. It often takes 10 to 20 years for information (validated findings) that comes out of research to be applied in clinical practice. These delays result in many lost opportunities to provide better care for our patients. This is one of the reasons why I'm really passionate about accelerating this process and making it easier for clinicians and their patients to take advantage of cutting-edge information and new technologies. 

We have known for a very long time that there is an increased risk of breast cancer for women who have dense breasts. Until recently, the research has been lagging in terms of what's the molecular mechanism, why do dense breasts present an increased risk of breast cancer? Without this knowledge, we can’t address the root causes, and are left with a lot of trial and error based on incomplete understanding. 

It's very encouraging to know that currently there are 124 clinical trials ongoing looking at dense breasts and the relationship with breast cancer, anywhere from improved diagnostics, to treatment, to prevention, and, what’s close to my heart, to understanding the molecular mechanisms - what's happening at the cell level, at the genetic level that is causing different women to have an elevated risk of breast cancer. 

One of the striking features that we're learning about dense breasts and what is creating that density is the microenvironment, which means the environment in the supporting tissue surrounding the glands. This includes fibroblasts and collagen. It seems that rather than estrogen being the dominant factor, it is inflammation that is creating the increased density of breast tissue. 

What's fascinating to me is that even though we associate estrogen with the primary means by which women develop breast cancer, it may be a different process for breast cancers linked to breast density. Some of the research that has just come out in the last few years is showing us that rather than being hormonally driven, we think what's happening is there is an increase in these inflammatory markers in the tissue that is denser, and this is what can also lead to cancer.

There is clearly a genetic, or hereditary component, because having dense breasts is noted to run in families. But while having dense breasts increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by up to 4-6x, not all of these women actually get cancer. That means there are other factors that can potentially increase as well as reduce a woman’s risk. This is where genomic research has been a gamechanger in identifying these other factors including for women with inherited genetic mutations, such as BRCA. 

We now know that there are multiple genes in multiple other pathways that can modify a woman’s risk of breast cancer even if she carries a BRCA mutation. [1]. Researchers have identified smaller changes in genes called SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that have a much lower individual impact than genetic mutations, but together can be additive.[2] In fact, women with specific patterns of SNPs had their risk of breast cancer significantly reduced. This can help explain why not all women with BRCA mutations get cancer, and provides insight into potential protective biological mechanisms.

This is a really powerful paradigm shift, because now it opens the door for truly individualizing each woman’s risk – and potentially being able to change it through diet, lifestyle, or other modalities.

We now are also learning that gene SNPs can also play a role in a woman’s risk for dense breasts and breast cancer. While there's much research that needs to be done, from my experience, there's a lot we can do already to potentially intervene and help women with dense breasts. As we wait for more definitive research, we can learn from the nutritional genomics and functional medicine realms. 

We have long known that pro-inflammatory conditions are underlying drivers for so many of the chronic diseases we see today, from cancer to heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, depression and more. The flip side of inflammation is oxidative stress. They go hand in hand. Some of the genes that drive these processes are now also being linked to dense breasts and potentially the increased breast cancer risk that women with dense breasts have. 

My question is, why can't we use some of these dietary lifestyle and nutritional supplement interventions that we already know decrease many of these pro-inflammatory pathways? Why can't we start using those in clinical practice as we wait for research and clinical trials to better refine our knowledge?  The fact is, we can! But it takes education, awareness and advocacy to implement these strategies more widely and make a difference now.


1) link to polygenic model – breast cancer, Lynch syndrome etc https://healthresourcedigest.blogspot.com/2022/03/the-future-in-personalized-medicine.html

2) Link to genetics/genomics https://modernhealing1.blogspot.com/2020/11/what-is-lynch-syndrome.html

The Latest: Advancement in Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer

According to the Society for Women's Health Research, Over 20,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year in the United States and women have a 92% chance of surviving for five years post-diagnosis. However, more than three-fourths of women are not diagnosed until later stages." [1] Abnormal ovaries are often benign simple cysts, however the complex cysts are classifiable with the new ultrasound scoring system as to how suspicious they may be. The same way we detect prostate tumors by routine yearly ultrasound screening in high risk patients, we could save many lives because sometimes the first sign of ovarian cancer is a gland in the neck that pops up, a mass under the arm or jaundice because the liver is filled with metastatic tumor.


Historically, the risk of ovarian cancer is linked to the current state of diagnostic technology. Though mortality rates have decreased over the years, cases of ovarian cancers may still reach critical stages when they are detected too late.  This happens because early ovarian cancer is commonly hard to feel on a routine pelvic exam. In addition, by the time it spreads, it fills the abdominal cavity with metastatic fluid, making it difficult to palpate. 

In 1980, I gave a talk for the American College of Obstetricians at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where we presented the use of real-time imaging for the instantaneous documentation of the fetal heart beat by intrauterine cardiac sonogram to detect fetal demise instead of waiting 2 weeks to see if the fetus was growing. We asserted a similar use of ultrasound technology to monitor abnormal ovarian cysts as small as two centimeters (2-3 cm is about the size of a normal ovary). Early cancers could not be felt, but are imaged with ultrasound as the technology advanced. With today's high resolution and 3D imaging, (including endo probes with elastography for the uterus and ovaries) recent upgrades offer even better capabilities to conduct regular screening in real time called a  noninvasive “virtual biopsy”.

In the 1990's, advancements in imaging allowed us to accurately detect prostate cancer, uterine cancer, and particularly see abnormal ovarian tumors. In addition, there is now an entire classification of ovarian cysts promoted by all the ultrasound and gynecologic societies to discern the fact that not all cysts are suspicious while some will be cancerous. Most of the ovarian cancers have cystic components. In my history as a practitioner, the first possible indicator of ovarian cancer was the swollen belly. Oftentimes, patients would come in after a CT for abdominal distension might show a fluid-filled abdomen, malignant ascitic fluid- and then when they drained the fluid, you might find an ovarian cancer tumor that metastasized to the lymph nodes, the mesentery membrane (the wall around the stomach area) or the liver. 

Today's 3D imaging not only finds tumors that could be cancerous as small as 3cm, but we are also able to detect and look at suspicious lesions. While 3cm is considered sizable in the ultrasound field, it's not big in the gynecologic field because that's about the size of an average tumor. Ultrasound technology is now able to see three millimeter cancers in the glands, which we have been doing for the past 10 years

Instead of conducting biopsies on abnormal glands, we now employ the sonogram in areas like the axillary lymph nodes. If there is an abnormal gland with a tumor under ultrasound guidance we insert a tiny biopsy needle and aspirate cells for cytology, which are contemporaneously analyzed microscopically providing timely diagnosis and reduced patient anxiety from waiting and often avoids the risks of a full dissection of the axillary or groin lymph node.

Thanks to modern endo probes that can scan deeper organs, we study micrometastatic nodules throughout the body in superficial areas and in deeper areas like the ovary. The endo probes resolution is 5x greater than the MRI or the CT scanner.  It is able to see not only the size and the irregularity in the cancerous wall of a cyst, but it measures the blood flow, which gives you a number of the abnormal tumor vessels in a cancer. Measuring the number of cancerous arteries indicates the severity of an ovarian tumor would be. Similarly, the fewer feeding blood vessels, the less malignant it is likely to be. 

With our current 3D screening solutions, we now have a way to find cancers before they metastasized throughout the body. And we have the technology that can be used to study a cyst instead of doing a exploratory laparotomy to take out a suspicious ovary. 


1) "Ovarian Cancer: Outdated Diagnostics for a Deadly Disease" Society for Women's Health Research- Feb 4, 2020. https://swhr.org/ovarian-cancer-outdated-diagnostics-for-a-deadly-disease/

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Over a decade after Gilda Radner’s passing in May of 1989, Dr. Nancy Cappello (a startlingly similar case of professional inefficiency and neglect) was diagnosed with stage 3C breast cancer in 2004 from a mis‐read mammogram, concealed behind dense breast tissue. A false negative mammography scan unidentified a large 2.5 cm suspicious lesion, which was later found via ultrasound readings was confirmed to be stage 3c breast cancer. This same cancer had metastasized to 13 lymph nodes. This sparked Dr. Cappello to create the "Are You Dense?" Foundation‐ an international awareness crusade to better support dense breast diagnostics and initiatives pass legislation to enact laws requiring mammography centers to inform patients about their breast density and the associated cancer risks.

Dr. Cappello passed away on Nov 15, 2018, from secondary myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a bone marrow cancer that was a complication of her prior aggressive breast cancer treatments. But she ignited a legacy of fighting for improved policies, advancing imaging technologies and continued research to better address this health crisis that puts the est. 40% of the female population (women with dense breasts) at risk of a false negative readings or other dense‐breast related cancers. The disorder or the cause may vary, but sad endings to stories like these remain common in our patient community.  We stand at a major point in history when medicine offers the highest advancements in technological innovations and treatment options- if not for HUMAN ERROR, or the mis-management of those entrusted to give professional care.    (See reprised feature from 10/2021 @: www.NYCRANEWS.com)


By: Dr. Noelle Cutter

For most of America (or the many parents), September and the fall season means "Back to School and Back to work" from a summer of exhaustive and adventurous travels. But for another audience, the cancer awareness crusaders have a dedicated calendar for awareness months where the fall season may have the most cancers represented.  According to the AACR (American Association for Cancer Research), the Fall calendar is comprised of a major set of public awareness programs promoted by dedicated cancer foundations.  September's calendar alone has the following events for awareness months: Childhood Cancer, Leukemia and Lymphoma, Ovarian Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Thyroid Cancer and Uterine Cancer.  Meanwhile BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH stands in October as the top event.

Recognizing the link between having Dense Breast tissue and the potential risk for Breast Cancer is what drives advocacy groups like the "Are You Dense?" Foundation.  Prompting a national education project is a decades-old mission that cancer docs and patient advocates alike are in a constant search for action-plans.  For the reasons why Breast Cancer continues to capture the heart of the battle within a national Awareness Month, the community now has DENSE BREAST AWARENESS WEEK as the last week if September to transition to Breast Cancer Month of October. 

Recent talks of a grassroots campaign to approach colleges about Dense Breast Awareness is in the works, according to  Heidi Diaz, communications consultant for the "Are You Dense?" Foundation.  Additionally, more clinicians are 'joining the fight' in support of the research including Dr. Roberta Kline (OB/GYN) who applauds the recent legislation in Congress to mandate clinical communication  in Mammography centers about patients' tissue density.  "This is the pathway to employing other imaging solutions like a supplemental ultrasound which clearly sees through dense tissue where mammography underperforms".

National Recognition in Dense Breast Research and Awareness

WOODBURY, Conn., Sept. 15, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Joseph Cappello, founder of the 'Are You Dense?' Foundation presented the first in a series of Cancer Research & Innovations awards to diagnostic imaging specialist Dr. Robert Bard (NYC).  Since 1979, Dr. Bard's radiology practice spearheaded the use of ultrasound screening to complement scheduled mammograms for those with dense breast tissue. (It is noted that ultrasound scans are able to detect growths and tumors behind dense tissue, what mammograms tend to miss). At the time, no regulatory standard enforced the need for this 2nd scan, attributing to many undetected breast cancer tumors concealed by dense breast tissue.

Joseph Cappello, founder of the "Are You Dense?" Foundation honors cancer researcher & clinical diagnostic specialist Dr. Robert Bard (NYC) with the first Cancer Research & Innovations Award.  This award recognizes clinical leadership in the advancement of early detection protocols and the improved screening of dense breast cases.

Joseph Cappello, founder of the "Are You Dense?" Foundation honors cancer researcher & clinical diagnostic specialist Dr. Robert Bard (NYC) with the first Cancer Research & Innovations Award. This award recognizes clinical leadership in the advancement of early detection protocols and the improved screening of dense breast cases.

"Decades since the advent of breast scanning technology, a growing list of real-time innovations in non-invasive diagnostic imaging provide new options in the field of early detection", states Dr. Bard. "These technologies directly align with breast density screening that can easily complement a woman's regular mammogram.  By updating the imaging process, we can safely combine diagnostic modalities and improve the assessment of disease and guide therapeutic procedures."

According to a 12/13/2022 press release, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and award-winning journalist Katie Couric introduced their legislation, the Find It Early Act. This bill would ensure all health insurance plans cover screening and diagnostic mammograms and breast ultrasounds and MRIs with no cost-sharing.  (See full news release)

"Dr. Bard will go down in medical history as one of the earliest change-makers in our crusade to improve women's early detection programs.  His innovative approach to combine technologies makes him a true visionary for the next generation of cancer professionals... by standing his ground about the crisis and aiding in (what is now) a national legislation to save more lives!", states Mr. Cappello.


In 2014, Imaging Technology News (ITN) introduced breast cancer survivor-turned-crusader Dr. Nancy Cappello and her story about having dense breast tissue leading to a late-stage cancer.  A false negative mammography scan (diagnosed in 2004) concealed a large 2.5 cm suspicious lesion, which was later confirmed to be stage 3c breast cancer. Dr. Cappello created the "Are You Dense?" Foundation to better support dense breast diagnostics and to pass legislation and laws requiring mammography centers to inform patients about their breast density and the associated cancer risks. Dr. Cappello passed away on Nov 15, 2018, from secondary myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a bone marrow cancer that was a complication of her prior aggressive breast cancer treatments.  Her legacy continues to help address this health crisis that puts the est. 40% of the female population (women with dense breasts) at risk of a false negative readings.

Are You Dense, Inc. pursues the national mission to educate the public about the risks and screening challenges of dense breast tissue and its impact on missed, delayed and advanced stage breast cancer to reduce advanced disease and mortality.  

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