Relay For Life: 'It was surprising that they didn't catch it'

EUGENE, Ore. -- Thousands of people whose lives have been affected by cancer will take to the track Friday for the annual Relay For Life, an event that raises money for cancer research.

One of those walking the Willamette High School track this year will be Laura Caldwell, who is in remission after being diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer in 2011.

Since that time Caldwell has worked with the Oregon Senate to change how doctors notify women of their cancer risk.

Caldwell said she had a clear mammogram just two months before she was diagnosed.

"It was surprising that they didn't catch it. Partly the reason they didn't catch it was because I had what was called 'dense breast tissue' and it's really hard to see cancer in a woman with breast cancer," Caldwell said.

The term is used to describe less fatty breast tissue that makes it hard to detect a cancerous tumor.

The National Cancer Institute says up to 40 percent of women have it.

"It's a little bit like trying to find a marshmallow in a snowstorm," said Caldwell. "It's just really hard to see that cancer on a mammogram."

Back then, Caldwell said doctors weren't required to tell patients about dense breast tissue.

Since her diagnosis, she's campaigned in support of Senate Bill 420 that would require doctors to tell patients whether or not they have dense breast tissue.

"At the end of June, Governor Kitzhaber signed a bill that would require doctors to notify women of their breast tissue and the density, and their increased risk for that, so that'll go into effect in January," Caldwell said.

Her cancer has come back, most recently at the end of June, and Caldwell just finished a round of radiation.

She said she's proud of the senate bill and is thankful more women will know about their health risks.