Mammogram Works for 60% of Women; HAPPYGRAM Examines the Other 40%

Last Updated by Lucie Raposo on
TitleHappygram
Original PostMay 1, 2019
Updated AirdateMay 22, 2019                               

Each year, an estimated 50,000 women with dense breast tissue receive a “happygram,” a ‘normal’ result for a mammogram that actually missed an invasive breast cancer. Yet, medical organizations and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have for years resisted including breast density information in mammogram reports.

Happygram, a documentary by Rhode Island filmmaker Julie Marron and Lemon Martini Productions, examines the role advocates and scientists have played in fighting the political and economic forces that have thwarted evidence-based science and efforts to change breast cancer screening and reporting guidelines.

What is breast density and what does it mean for women?

High breast density is one of the greatest risk factors for breast cancer. More than 70 percent of invasive cancers occur in women with dense breasts, but mammography misses more than 50 percent of these women’s cancers. As a consequence, these women are most likely to develop metastatic breast cancer and die, despite existence of approved and proven technologies that can detect invasive cancers in dense tissue.

Women advocates – many with late stage and metastatic breast cancer themselves – battled the FDA and medical organizations for more than a decade to require this life-saving information as a standard part of the report.

In March 2019, the FDA changed mammography guidelines to require breast density notification in the report that is sent to all women who get a mammogram.

Happygram: affecting change and winning awards

Happygram premiered at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in 2015, where it won First Prize for the Providence Film Festival Award. The film won several other awards on the film festival circuit in 2015 and 2016, and has been screened at local and community events around the world. The documentary has also been given to thousands of lawmakers and advocates across the county where local legislatures have passed laws requiring notification of breast density.

WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits high-definition (HD) and standard-definition (SD) programming over the air on digital 36.1; on Rhode Island cable services: Cox 08 / 1008HD, Verizon FiOS 08 / 508HD, and Full Channel 08; on MA cable services: Comcast 819HD and Verizon FiOS 18 / 518HD; on satellite services: DirecTV 36, Dish Network 36.

About Rhode Island PBS

WSBE Rhode Island PBS is operated by the Rhode Island PBS Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. WSBE Rhode Island PBS is a viewer-supported member of the PBS network of public broadcasting stations, and uses the power of noncommercial media to educate, engage, enrich, inspire, and entertain viewers of all ages in Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts, and eastern Connecticut since 1967. WSBE-DT delivers content on two channels: Rhode Island PBS (digital 36.1), and Learn (digital 36.2). For more information about programs and education services at WSBE, visit www.ripbs.org.

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