In Memoriam

Honoring Nancy Cappello, Breast Density Warrior

On November 15th, I received the heartbreaking news that my dear friend Nancy Cappello had passed away due to a side effect of her breast cancer treatment. She “was perhaps the single individual most responsible for the growing awareness of breast density as a health risk for women” and a treasured teammate.

The breast cancer community and I are devastated by this loss. Several people have reached out to me since Nancy’s passing to express their dismay and grief. We will all miss her tremendously.

However, I want to encourage all who knew Nancy to celebrate her life and rejoice in the things she was able to accomplish. The energy and momentum she created will live on through us now and through future warriors in generations to come. I’m thankful for the chance I’ve had to reflect on my friendship with Nancy.

I first met Nancy at an RSNA event about breast ultrasound in 2012. She told me her story about being diagnosed with Stage IIIC breast cancer after years of mammograms listing “normal” results. Only then did she learn that she had dense breasts tissue that had masked her cancer for years before her diagnosis.

Nancy felt that she should have known much sooner about her breast density and the risk associated with it. In an effort to spread awareness and keep other women from ending up in her situation, Nancy started the Are You Dense site and campaign in 2008.

By the time I jumped on board, Nancy and her associates had been instrumental in the passing of legislation in Nancy’s home state. This legislation required that doctors inform patients with dense breast tissue about their density status and offer additional screening. Since then, most states in the US have passed similar legislation.

However, that progress did not come quickly or easily. There were days when I couldn’t see any positive change happening and was simply tired. In those moments, Nancy kept me going. Her radiant spirit inspired all of us involved in the breast density cause and reminded us why we needed to fight.

Nancy was also a valuable advocate of my own efforts. She and I presented together at several events. She supported KLAS’ commitment to transparency for healthcare providers and shared some of our data in her work with the healthcare community. I think of her every time I share the critical news about breast density’s effect on mammography.

Nancy didn’t just change the way that we screen for breast cancer—she literally saved lives. Women everywhere owe her a debt of gratitude, and thousands of breast cancer survivors owe her their health and happiness.

Thank you, our courageous Nancy.