Margie’s Army Foundation: Nobody Fights Alone
Margie’s Army Foundation: Nobody Fights Alone
𝐒𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐛𝐲 𝐂𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐲 𝐑𝐞𝐢𝐝
𝐏𝐡𝐨𝐭𝐨𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐡𝐲 𝐛𝐲 𝐋𝐞𝐢𝐝𝐲 𝐋𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫
According to the National Breast Cancer Organization, 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Early detection is crucial in order to commence treatment and optimize the best outcome.
However, within the general population 40 to 50% of all women have “dense breasts,” a common condition that greatly increases the chances of missed cancer diagnosis. When a woman with dense breasts has a mammogram, that test alone may well miss a tumor. And when coupled with a family history of breast cancer, the odds of a missed early diagnosis increase dramatically.
Enter Margie’s Army Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating and empowering women in their fight against breast cancer and raising awareness about the significance of knowing their breast density.
Margie’s Army Foundation was founded by Effingham native and patient advocate Margie Singleton, who was diagnosed with breast cancer that was missed by screening mammography because she has dense breast tissue.
“I was diagnosed in 2017 after the tumor was missed by two different 3D mammograms due to my dense breast tissue,” she says.
After diagnosis Margie had six rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, and 25 rounds of radiation. After that she received maintenance treatments every three weeks to prevent recurrence.
Although she is cancer free today, she will have to take an oral chemo pill for the next ten years.
“My health is good until they tell me differently,” she says. “I have to take a pill daily and there are always ancillary signs with you after having cancer.”
This February will be six years since her diagnosis, and it has been an extremely busy six years—from surviving cancer to founding a nonprofit foundation.
Margie says, “My career is in medical devices, so helping people has always been important to me. Using my own experience and establishing Margie’s Army Foundation (MAF) gave me direction after my cancer diagnosis because it allowed me to ‘pay it forward’ and help others.”
Promoting awareness of breast density and how it impacts breast cancer has been the main thrust of MAF.
𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐁𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐃𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐲?
Breast density refers to the amount of normal, non-fatty tissue visible in a woman’s breasts. Dense breasts are very common. The dense breast tissue has less fat and more fibrous and connective tissue. This tissue appears white on a mammogram. Unfortunately, so does cancer; making it difficult
to detect cancer. The majority of women do not know their breast density, and less than one in 10 women learn about their dense breast tissue from their doctors.
Margie says, “Breast density issues are the best kept secret in breast cancer.”
After lobbying efforts by MAF and other breast cancer advocacy groups, the breast density information bill HB62, known as “Margie’s Law,” was signed by Governor Brian Kemp on May 16, 2019. The law—which became effective July 1, 2019—made Georgia the 38th state to require health care facilities conducting mammograms to provide some form of notification about breast density to patients and referring health care providers. The law requires healthcare facilities in Georgia to notify patients if their mammogram demonstrates dense breast tissue using the statement below:
“Your mammogram shows that your breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue is very common and is not abnormal. However, dense breast tissue can make it more difficult to detect cancer through a mammogram. Also, dense breast tissue may increase your risk for breast cancer. This information about the result of your mammogram is given to you to increase your awareness. Use this information to talk with your health care provider about whether other supplemental tests in addition to your mammogram may be appropriate for you, based on your individual risk. A report of your results was sent to your ordering physician. If you are self-referred, a report of your results was sent to you in addition to this summary.”
In 2022, the Georgia State Legislature passed GA HB733, subsequently signed by Gov. Kemp, which requires insurers who cover diagnostic examinations for breast cancer to treat cost-sharing requirements the same as annual mammograms, furthering access to potentially life-saving health exams and increasing the likelihood of early detection for those tested regularly. The legislation took effect January 1, 2023.
Margie says, “The HB733 bill specifies insurance coverage. Basically, prior to the passage of this bill, insurance usually did not cover additional testing beyond an annual mammogram. Now if deemed high risk, insurance will now cover their screening.”
She says the new law came about due to the lobbying efforts of DenseBreast-info.org, the largest dense breast advocacy group in the US.
“They were the ones who were behind this, “she says, “and we sent many letters to the delegates in Georgia. This bill was crucial because no woman should have to fight with a provider or insurance company to get additional screening.”
𝐍𝐨𝐛𝐨𝐝𝐲 𝐅𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐬 𝐀𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐞
Although “Margie’s Law” and HB733 were both passed, MAF marches on. Their current work focuses on education regarding breast density and early detection. Members give educational talks to inform women about the importance of knowing their breast density and taking action to protect themselves from breast cancer.
“You may not be okay,” says Margie, “because you very well might need additional tests such as an ultrasound or MRI.”
Their goals include expanding access for women with dense breast tissue to get additional screening by partnering with women’s breast health facilities to ensure women are not limited by lack of financial ability.
Funds raised are spent by giving back to the community through donating funds to survivorship programs to help women and their families who are battling breast cancer. Not just women are impacted by breast cancer diagnoses, as this disease affects family members, friends, and loved ones as well.
During the month of October, Margie’s Army Foundation makes every effort to ensure women battling breast cancer feel special with the delivery of a unique gift to help with their battle and educational material to oncology centers.
With her strong belief that everything happens for a reason Margie says helping other women “get on the other side of the storm” remains a very personal mission.
“I am a firm believer that God gave me this because He knew I would do something with this. It was hard to put my story out there, but I have always felt that I’ve got to do it.” She says, “My private life was gone for a few years, but I wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars. When I get a phone call and I talk to someone who tells me, ‘They caught my cancer early,’ that makes it all worth it. That’s why we do what we do.”
And when someone is helped by MAF, all they ask is that you pay it forward when you can by continuing to spread the message of empowerment and self-advocacy.
Margie says, “Women’s breast health has been my passion, and the message is getting out there, thanks to Margie’s Army Foundation.”
It is recommended that all women conduct monthly breast self exams and have an annual mammogram. To find out if you have dense breasts, obtain a copy of your mammogram report and carefully read the description of your breast density. Ask your doctor about your risk factors and potential need for additional screening (ultrasound, breast MRI, etc.).
𝐃𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐞 𝐁𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐬 𝐅𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐬
• 40-50% of all women have dense breast tissue.
• Breast cancer risks are increased by 4x when comparing breast density category D with category A and 2x when comparing category C with A.
• A mammogram misses the presence of cancer in patients with dense breasts 1 out of every 2 times.
• Mammography remains the standard screening test for breast cancer and is proven to reduce deaths due to breast cancer. However, in dense breasts, cancers can be hidden on mammography and may go undetected until they are larger and more likely to have spread.
• According to the National Cancer Institute, women with dense breasts are more likely to receive false negative mammogram reports.
• Other screening tests, such as Ultrasound or MRI, when added to mammography, substantially increase the detection of early-stage breast cancer in women with dense breasts.
As women with dense breast tissue are at a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer, spreading awareness and encouraging more frequent screenings significantly impacts breast cancer detection—leading to better outcomes.