In the middle of a routine mammogram, one patient made a casual comment about needing to schedule a bone density scan as well. Normally that would mean a trip to Olympia, but Summit Pacific’s Diagnostic Imaging Manager Joy Iversen was able to give her some good news. “I told this patient, ‘If you wait one month, we can do it here,” says Iversen. “She got very excited.”
And now, the waiting is over! The new equipment has arrived. Summit Pacific is now offering DXA scans and 3D mammography. DXA stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Thanks to Summit Pacific and this new equipment, Grays Harbor residents now have increased access to services that can help problems get diagnosed earlier, more accurately and keep them close to home while receiving their healthcare evaluations.
Until now, the medical center has provided digital mammography and diagnostic mammography, as well as routine screenings, MRI, ultrasound, ECHO and CT scans. The 3D machine will be one of only two in the region and will allow radiologists to find issues sooner. “We’ll be able to see women’s breasts in more detail,” says Iversen. “We can find things that would normally be hidden by breast tissue, especially for women with dense breasts.” However, mammograms are not just for women, she emphasizes, noting that a percentage of their patients are men.
The new tool will reduce the number of times a woman is called back for additional views, Iversen added, making visits more efficient. “Patients won’t have to go to another facility to get these screenings done. Now we can do everything right here.”
3D mammography uses digital tomosynthesis, a technology that enables technicians to take pictures of the breast from multiple angles, creating a comprehensive image. “It’s like if you were to slice a loaf of bread and could see each of the pieces,” says Iversen. “There is some radiation, but it’s still less than you would be exposed to by flying across the country.”
The DXA machine will aid Summit Pacific in their push for wellness and preventative care, catching issues before they happen and allowing patients and providers to be proactive. “We’ll use it for density studies,” says Iversen. “It can detect low calcium in bones and predict who is going to be at higher risk for fracturing a hip for instance. Medicare has started paying for this service as well so more patients will be able to take advantage of our new service.” Patients found to be at risk can receive phosphonate injections to help build up their bones. “There are medical interventions that can help,” she says.
The scan also measures aortic calcification, a key indicator of impending heart disease and/or stroke. “Cardiovascular disease and strokes are the first and third leading causes of death in the United States,” says Iversen. “With this machine, you’ll have advance notice if you have a problem.”
Summit Pacific intends to make the machine available to the public for people engaged in weight training programs wanting to track their results. “Anyone that is interested can call in to schedule a body composition scan. This scan lets you know how much of your body weight is made up of fat, muscle and bone. These screenings will cost a flat rate. It’s a great tool to use for people working to improve their overall health and body make up,” she says.
Iversen credits Summit Pacific’s executive team, with bringing the equipment to Grays Harbor. Inspired by a visit to South Sound Radiology in Olympia, home of the region’s only other 3D Mammography machine, administrators became excited about the benefits it could bring. “They says, ‘We need to do this for our community,” says Iversen. “Our administration is awesome. They want to give as much to the community as possible.”
She believes the impact will be significant, especially for patients who have put off diagnostic screenings because of travel time. “A lot of women haven’t gotten DXA scans because it wasn’t here,” she says. “They’re willing to do it, but they just didn’t want to go to Olympia.”
Others may get mammograms but not as often as they should. “Now we’re combining mammograms with DXA so they don’t have to leave their community. We’re reaching out to a population that currently isn’t having it done.” Summit Pacific also has one of the highest prompt pay discounts in the region, which allows patients to receive a 25% discount if their balance is paid within 30 days of receiving their invoice.
“Anyone can come to Summit for their diagnostic imaging,” says Iversen. Summit Pacific accepts referrals from all providers. This means no matter whom you see or where you receive primary care, Summit Pacific will accept their referral and send the results of your scans directly to them for your convenience.
“Many people don’t realize that you can shop around for services such as mammography.” Iversen shared, “Just because your provider might suggest that you schedule your scan with a certain facility, doesn’t mean you have to. You can research other options and consider things such as how far you have to travel, how soon you can get in for an appointment, price or whatever else and make a decision that works best for you.”
To schedule an appointment or learn more about Diagnostic Imaging services offered at Summit Pacific, call the department directly at 360-346-2472.
Iversen has been working at Summit Pacific for nearly 30 years, having started in 1988. “I like working here because of the support,” she says. “It starts from the top. We are very fortunate. I’m just really glad that we have an administration that finds this important enough to make it available to the community. They’re very dedicated.”
For more information visit www.summitpacificmedicalcenter.org or call (360)346-2222.