Grays Harbor Community Hospital (GHCH) will begin offering 3D mammography. With the ability to detect invasive cancers at earlier stages and reduce callbacks by up to 40 percent, the 3D option represents a significant boon for Grays Harbor County.
“A lot of patients in our area have had to travel to obtain 3D imaging. They want to get the best, of course. and now they will have that option here in Aberdeen,” says Wilna Wheeler, Imaging Supervisor.
In contrast to 2D, which takes images of the breast only from the front and side, 3D mammography (or tomosynthesis), takes a series of images in 1-milimeter “slices” from many different angles. A computer then reconstructs these image slices into a 3D rendering of the breast.
“It’s kind of like a CT of the breast,” explains Dawn Heckathorn, Radiologic Technologist and Certified Navigator for Breast Imaging. “The radiologist can visualize the breast better by scrolling through the layering of the breast tissue.”
According to radiologist, Dr. Joseph Stengel, the most common reason women get called back for a diagnostic mammogram is “summation,” a situation in which normal tissue in one part of the breast overlaps normal tissue in another part of the breast. In a 2D image, that overlap can look like a mass but with 3D, the radiologist can scroll through the layers and identify the overlap without a callback.
3D mammography also benefits the 49 percent of women who have dense breast tissue. On a mammogram, dense breast tissue and cancerous masses both show up as white. With 3D, the radiologist can discern the difference by looking at the image from multiple perspectives, removing the need for second scan.
“The time between when you receive the letter that says you need additional views and the time those additional views are taken is a very emotionally turbulent time,” says Stengel. “We recognize that, and we want to do everything in our power to cut back on that emotional stress.”
GHCH has chosen to implement the Selenia Dimensions system from Hologic, a state-of-the-art machine, that delivers a lower dose of radiation than other 3D systems and includes SmartCurve technology. The curved compression surface of the SmartCurve system preserves image quality while providing a more comfortable patient experience.
With many women delaying mammograms out of fear of pain, increasing the comfort level is important. “By employing the best of the best technology, we are trying to create a better patient experience and reduce anxiety,” explains Charles Skorzewski, Director of Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging.
Benefits of Early Detection
According to Hologic, studies show that 3D mammography detects 20-65 percent more invasive breast cancers when compared with 2D imaging, which means radiologists are able to catch breast cancers at a much earlier stage. With early detection, patients have a wider array of treatment options available and may be able to avoid chemotherapy or invasive surgery. Most importantly, early detection increases the five-year survival rate to 99 percent.
Education Saves Lives
Unfortunately, breast cancer survival rates in Grays Harbor County are among the lowest in the state. While 3D imaging should increase early detection and improve the odds, Heckathorn also emphasizes the critical importance of education. Women–and men, too–need to know the twelve signs of breast cancer.
Knowing and following screening guidelines can save lives, as well. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for women starting at age 45. For women with risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer, screening should begin earlier.
Many older women wonder how long to continue annual mammograms. “I present women with a question only they can answer,” says Heckathorn. “Would you be willing to have a lumpectomy if you were diagnosed with breast cancer? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then come in for your mammogram.”
Mammograms take a matter of minutes to complete, and new technology available at GHCH makes the process much more comfortable. Furthermore, nearly all insurances cover screening mammograms after age 40, including 3D mammography. For women in Washington without insurance, the Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program may cover the cost.
With 3D mammography, GHCH is removing an additional barrier to health by providing state-of-the-art, comfortable screening close to home. To schedule your mammogram, contact Grays Harbor Imaging, a department of Grays Harbor Community Hospital, at 360-533-0400.