09/27/18 2:00pm
STOCK PHOTO Paddlers will love the Mashomack Point paddle on Saturday, September 29.

STOCK PHOTO
Paddlers will love the Mashomack Point paddle on Saturday, September 29.

A weekly round up of events and activities on Shelter Island.

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07/30/12 1:00pm

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Breast cancer screening legislation passed in Albany was lobbied for by the late Teresa Montant of Shelter Island.

It’s a bittersweet reality for Shelter Islander Townsend Montant that the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo have finally taken steps to improve breast cancer detection by requiring that patients with dense breast tissue be informed that they may be candidates for further testing.

Less than a year ago, Mr. Montant’s wife, Teresa, lost her battle with metastatic triple negative breast cancer — a battle she might well have won had the new law gone into effect a few years earlier. The legislation was signed by Governor Cuomo on July 23.

What the law will require when it takes effect in six months is that patients whose mammograms show dense breast tissue be informed that they should speak with their doctors about whether further screening is appropriate. Dense breast tissue can hide early detection of cancer cells that may be life threatening by the time they show up on a mammogram. Such was the case with Teresa Montant.

She dutifully got annual mammograms, her husband said. But by the time a mammogram showed breast tumors in 2009, the disease had progressed.

While battling the disease, Ms. Montant became an activist working for exactly the kind of legislation that might have saved her life. And when she lost her life last October, her husband carried on the campaign, working with other activists throughout the area, not just lobbying for legislation, but doing his part to inform women he encounters about the possibility that they may need more than a simple mammogram each year.

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12/11/11 6:00pm

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO

The League of Women Voters sponsored a forum on breast density on November 19 in Camp Quinipet’s Dining Hall. Participants included Laura Weir, legislative aide to Representative Losquandro; Dr. Nancy Capello, president of Are You Dense, Inc.; Cathryn Cunningham, the league’s program chair; and JoAnn Pushkin, co-founder of D.E.N.S.E.

11/25/11 9:00am

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Dr. Nancy Capello, Ph.D., shared her story as a breast cancer survivor to raise public awareness of breast density as a risk factor for breast cancer.

A recent Harris Poll showed that 95 percent of women do not know their breast density and only one in 10 women are informed of the fact by their physicians. That lack of knowledge could kill them.

The League of Women Voters held an informational forum about dense breast tissue as a cancer risk in the main dining hall at Camp Quinipet on Saturday, November 19. The event was attended by about 20 people including breast cancer survivors and family members, League of Women Voter members and interested community members.

Speakers were Kathryn Cunningham of the League of Women Voters; Dr. Nancy Capello Ph.D. of Are You Dense Inc., an advocacy group based in Woodbury, Connecticut; JoAnn Pushkin of D.E.N.S.E. (Density Education National Survivors’ Effort) and Second District New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

Ms. Cunningham opened the forum with a moment of silence for Teresa Montant, an Island woman who died from breast cancer last month. She organized the forum during the summer and fall and the League took over as its sponsor after her death.

Ms. Montant pushed for breast density awareness because her illness might have been caught earlier if she’d known she had dense breast tissue — a risk factor for breast cancer. Those with dense breast tissue should have ultrasound exams in addition to an annual mammogram. Ms. Montant didn’t know that until after her illness was diagnosed.

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. spoke to the group as the co-sponsor of a bill before the New York State Legislature that would require insurance companies to pay for additional testing for women with dense breasts. It also would require mammography reports to include information about breast density.

He explained that, because 2012 will be an election year for the legislature, the bill has a “real chance of passage” but it will require “intensive” grassroots efforts.  Mr. Thiele said that if the bill were passed, he couldn’t “think of any better tribute” to Ms. Montant, who he said had arranged for him to speak at the forum more than six months ago. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate last year by Senator John Flanagan, but it never came to a vote in the Assembly.

Two of the forum’s speakers said they had received diagnoses of advanced breast cancer after years of normal mammograms. Dr. Capello, one survivor, said that every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and that 38 percent of the time the disease isn’t caught until the advanced stage. “It’s great to celebrate life,” Dr. Capello said, “but the reality is 23 percent” of women with breast cancer die because of the disease.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Second District New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. addressed about 20 women and three men at the main dining hall at Camp Quinipet on Saturday, November 19 as a co-sponsor for a bill to require insurance companies to pay for additional screening for women with dense breasts.

Dr. Capello is the president of Are You Dense, Inc., which seeks to educate the public about dense breast tissue. It also pushes for legislation to require that doctors communicate with patients about their breasts’ density and that insurance companies pay for ultrasound exams for women with extremely dense breasts.

The other survivor who spoke was JoAnn Pushkin, who also learned of her risk factor only after a diagnosis. Like Teresa Montant, she said she felt the lump in her breast during a self-exam.

In 2009, Connecticut became the first state to mandate that physicians tell women about their breast density. Federal legislation requiring the same thing was introduced in March by New York Third District Representative Rosa DeLauro. East End Congressman Tim Bishop co-signed The Breast Density and Mammography Reporting Act of 2011 days after Teresa Montant’s death.

Dr. Capello called Ms. Montant a “passionate crusader” for breast density awareness.

Breast tissue density is measured by radiologists on a four-category sliding scale ranging from primarily fatty to extremely dense tissue. During a PowerPoint presentation, Dr. Capello asked, “Where’s the cancer?” as she showed photographs comparing mammograms from women on the extremes of the four-category spectrum.

The first photograph showed a mammogram of a category-one breast. It appeared transparent aside from a white lump. She said that it didn’t take a medical degree to spot the problem area.

Detection in “extremely dense” category-four tissue, however is more difficult, she said. Both dense breast tissue and malignant tumors appear white in mammograms, making tumors far more difficult to spot.

09/28/11 10:35pm

Town employees have offered to donate their own sick time to the ailing clerk of the Town Highway Department, Teresa Montant, who has been battling breast cancer for years and has championed campaigns to increase public awareness of the disease.

Ms. Montant said this week she hoped the Town Board would allow for the “sick bank” — a donation of sick time to help her and her husband Townie with the financial demands of her illness. She said she had been told that the board was reluctant to change the rules barring employees from trading or enhancing benefits because of the precedent it could set.

The subject came up briefly at Tuesday’s Town Board work session when Councilman Glenn Waddington said he wanted to discuss the issue. Supervisor Jim Dougherty said the board had intended to talk about it during its subsequent executive session. As a personnel matter, a discussion of the topic is exempt from the requirements of the Open Meetings Law. If any formal action is required of the board to implement a sick bank for Ms. Montant, it would have to take place in public however.

Mr. Waddington said on Wednesday that he believed all the board members who had met in the executive session hoped to work out a plan to accommodate the employees looking to help Ms. Montant. “A number of people have offered to apply their time to a sick bank for Teresa,” he commented. “We’re just trying to work out the details. I want to see something get done and I think it’s the unanimous sentiment of the board.”

Supervisor Dougherty commented Wednesday he was “terribly grateful for the wonderful services she has and is still giving us and we’re diligently exploring the idea” of a sick bank to help Ms. Montant.