Better Breast Exams
August 10, 2021
Twelve years ago, Jan LaMont was diagnosed with breast cancer. It came as a surprise to her, as well as her doctors. She didn’t have any symptoms. She never felt a lump. And if she hadn’t received her annual mammogram, she may have never known she had cancer. “I started getting yearly mammograms at age 40,” LaMont says. “That’s my recommendation to women: don’t skip your annual mammograms.”
The Bigger Picture
Breast cancer screenings are a vital step in prevention. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Annual mammograms allow physicians to detect cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages. And now, Huron Regional Medical Center is getting a boost in breast cancer detection, with the addition of 3D mammography.
“With 3D mammography, several different angles of X-rays recreate a three-dimensional image of breast tissue on a computer,” explains Anthony Loewen, MD, general surgeon at HRMC and New Life Clinic. “Many studies suggest that 3D mammography allows radiologists to identify more cancer cases. It also decreases false positives, or identifying an area of the breast as suspicious for cancer when it’s not actually cancerous. Fewer false positives mean fewer unnecessary breast biopsies and more peace of mind for the patient.”
For comparison, traditional 2D mammography takes images of two sides of the patient’s breast. To take these images, the machine flattens or compresses the patient’s breast to help separate breast tissue. A 3D mammogram still compresses the patient’s breast, but it takes several photos while the machine moves in an arc, then splices the photo together to create a 3D image.
“We can use the analogy of a loaf of bread,” says Ann Van Winkle, RT(R)(M)(CT), registered technologist of radiology, mammography, at HRMC. “With 2D mammography, you can look at the top and sides of the loaf. 3D lets us look at each individual slice.” This means that tumors hiding in overlapping tissues might be seen more easily with 3D imaging.
Using this technology for regular cancer screenings can help radiologists detect small changes in the breast, leading to finding cancer in more treatable stages and improving patient outcomes. “We want women to feel good about being proactive in their health care,” Van Winkle says. “A mammogram could save your life!”
Prevention Is Paramount
“It’s been well established by numerous studies that patients’ outcomes drastically improve with early detection,” Dr. Loewen says. “This is the basis of breast cancer screening. We know it can be unnerving for patients sometimes, but the risk of not identifying cancer in earlier stages can have serious consequences.” The American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk for breast cancer begin having annual mammograms by age 45, but they may start as early as 40. The ACS notes that women age 55 and older can switch to an every-other-year screening schedule if desired. Talk to your primary care provider about when and how often you should be screened.
Care Close to Home
After receiving her cancer diagnosis, LaMont underwent surgery to remove her breast cancer. Now, she’s an advocate for breast cancer prevention, speaking to women about the importance of regular breast cancer screenings. “The great thing is 3D mammograms are more detailed than what was available when I was diagnosed,” LaMont says. “With the technology at HRMC, it’s close to home. Your annual screening is something you can do during your lunch hour, and it could save your life.”
If something is found during your screening, our team will provide leading-edge, compassionate breast cancer care. “Oftentimes, I can perform a breast biopsy of a suspicious lesion within 24 hours of the initial screening,” Dr. Loewen says. “We get results from our pathologists within three business days. If surgery is deemed necessary, patients can have it performed close to their homes and families. Follow-up care is local as well, and it’s easy for our patients to reach us if they have any questions.”
Are you up to date with your breast cancer screening? To schedule a mammogram, call (605) 353-6334 or visit us online at www.huronregional.org/mammo.
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