'I would rather have a week of worry than a year and a half of treatment'

EUGENE, Ore. - Last year, cancer patient Laura Caldwell wanted to get the word out about "dense breast tissue" and how the condition could confound mammagrams.

"If I had only known, then I could have caught this a lot earlier," she told KVAL News, "when it was stage zero instead of stage three."

Now Caldwell is campaigning in support of legislation that would require doctors to inform women with dense breat tissue that they have the condition.

"I find that most women don't know, have never heard the term 'dense breast tissue,' they don't even know what that is, let alone, if they have it," she said, "and that it's a risk factor."

Dense breast tissue is less fatty than normal breast tissue and makes it hard to detect a cancerous tumor. The National Cancer Institute says up to 40 percent of women have it, but Caldwell said some doctors don't want their patients to worry, so they don't tell them.

"I would rather have a week of worry than a year and a half of treatment," she said, "or a life time of worry, which is what it is after you've had cancer."

Caldwell is testifying in an Oregon Legislative committee hearing on the breast density bill.

The bill would require doctors to say in writing whether patients have dense breast tissue or not.

A second portion of that bill would require insurance companies to pay for additional screenings.

"For me, it's more motivation to get this bill passed because I feel like if we caught my cancer earlier we would have had earlier intervention and it wouldn't have moved to my lymphatic system which hopefully would have prevented it from moving to other parts of my body," Caldwell said.

Even as she prepares to testify, Caldwell is preparing for challenge: doctors found a tumor on her brain that they suspect is cancerous.

"It's scary," she said. "Scary to do this again, and having it on your brain is really scary. It feels a lot bigger than even breast cancer felt."