A major flaw in breast cancer detection almost took Henda Salmeron's life in June 2009, so she made it her mission to correct the mistake.
Because she was religious about her mammograms Salmeron thought she’d caught the cancer early, but doctors learned the tumor had already grown to 4 centimeters.
“I was just dumbstruck you know why, how did this happen? How did I end up with a 4-centimeter tumor? And that’s when they told me I had dense breast tissue,” Salmeron said.
When breast tissue is more compact, it shows up white on a mammogram, just like a tumor, so the tumor is harder to see.
“I never knew that, I never heard of it, nobody ever told me, I was completely uninformed,” Salmeron said.
Once Henda and her doctors eradicated the tumor, she moved on to her next challenge.
“I just decided you know, it’s not acceptable, the standard of care needs to change where women at least have to be told,” she said.
Salmeron worked with local legislators and created a bill that states every woman who gets a mammogram, must be made aware that dense breast tissue is an additional risk factor.
“Ultimately, in my case, the mammogram was not the appropriate screening for me, had I had a sonogram or an M.R.I. or some other supplemental screening, it could have been found,” said Salmeron.
After countless trips to Austin to testify, Salmeron’s hard work finally paid off this summer, but it wasn’t easy.
“Every time it looked like the bill was going to die, things happened that kept it moving, and in the nick of time, it passed. It passed the house, it passed the senate, and then Governor Perry signed it,” she said.
Salmeron cherishes summer days with her kids even more now that she’s survived cancer, and she hopes her work will allow other moms to do the same.
“If I can save just one woman from going through what I went through, then this was entirely worth it,” she said.
The bill is effective Sept. 1, and every doctor in Texas must be in full compliance by Jan. 1, 2012. Salmeron’s next step is to take this legislation to the federal level.