High-tech health

New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter pur­chases new dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy ma­chines

The Covington News - - MEDICAL UPDATE - By Michelle Kim

New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter took a step into the dig­i­tal age this sum­mer with the pur­chase of two dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy ma­chines which en­able ra­di­ol­o­gists to ma­nip­u­late images for clearer read­ings and re­duce wait times for pa­tients.

“The tran­si­tion to dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy has gone very smoothly,” said Lisa McWil­liams, man­ager of the Women’s Di­ag­nos­tic Cen­ter. “The staff, physi­cians and pa­tients have been very pleased with the new equip­ment and images.”

The Cen­ter has per­formed over 1,000 screen­ing and di­ag­nos­tic mam­mo­grams so far since in­stalling the dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy equip­ment in June and July. The new ma­chines cost ap­prox­i­mately $800,000 to­tal for the two units and com­puter pro­grams, and the New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter Aux­il­iary has been able to raise nearly $250,000 to­ward the cost of the ma­chines, said McWil­liams.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy and tra­di­tional film mam­mog­ra­phy is anal­o­gous to tak­ing a pic­ture with a dig­i­tal cam­era and a film cam­era, said Dr. Martha Gar­ri­son, one of two fel­low­ship­trained ra­di­ol­o­gists ded­i­cated to breast imag­ing at New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

In­stead of ex­pos­ing the breast x-ray images onto film, the new ma­chines store the images as elec­tronic files. The images can then be eas­ily ma­nip­u­lated to ad­just for bright­ness, con­trast or size, mak­ing it eas­ier to read, said Gar­ri­son.

“The images are bet­ter qual­ity, es­pe­cially with younger women who have dense breast tis­sue and pre- and pre­menopausal women, and it helps a lot with peo­ple who have breast im­plants,” she said. “It’s just over­all a bet­ter tool.”

A 2005 study spon­sored by the Na­tional Can­cer In­sti­tute found that 65 per­cent of the women re­ceiv­ing mam­mo­grams in the study fell into the three cat­e­gories that ben­e­fited from hav­ing dig­i­tal in­stead of film mam­mog­ra­phy — women un­der 50 years old, women with dense breast tis­sue, and women who had their last men­strual pe­riod within 12 months of the mam­mo­gram.

Ra­di­ol­o­gists at New­ton Med­i­cal are also as­sisted by a Com­puter Aided De­tec­tion pro­gram which serves as a sec­ond set of “eyes” by scan­ning the breast images and point­ing out po­ten­tial trou­ble spots. This pro­gram used to re­quire a sep­a­rate step to scan the film images into the com­puter but now is part of the dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy equip­ment.

From a pa­tient’s stand­point, the process of tak­ing a mam­mo­gram will still seem the same and still re­quires breast com­pres­sion. But dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy can re­duce pa­tient anx­i­ety, said McWil­liams, by less­en­ing the pro­cess­ing time from ap­prox­i­mately 30 min­utes to 10 min­utes and re­duc­ing the num­ber of times a pa­tient has to be called back to re­take images.

Dig­i­tal images are also eas­ier to store, less likely to get lost, and can be sent quickly and re­motely to ra­di­ol­o­gists for in­ter­pre­ta­tion, McWil­liams pointed out.

The over­all goal is to in­crease ease and ef­fec­tive­ness of mam­mo­grams to catch can­cer at an early stage, which is key to im­prov­ing chances of sur­viv­ing breast can­cer.

An es­ti­mated 40,460 women and 460 men will die from breast can­cer this year, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety. The ACS rec­om­mends that women over age 40 have mam­mo­grams and clin­i­cal breast ex­ams an­nu­ally and women in their 20s and 30s have clin­i­cal breast ex­ams pe­ri­od­i­cally ev­ery three years. Women with higher risk fac­tors, such as a fam­ily his­tory of breast can­cer, should con­sult their doc­tors about when to start reg­u­lar ex­ams.

For pa­tients with­out in­sur­ance cov­er­age who qual­ify, pro­grams such as Breast Test and More can as­sist with the cost of mam­mo­grams. For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact the New­ton County Health De­part­ment at (770) 786-9086.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Tech­nol­ogy up­grade: Ra­di­ol­o­gist and fel­low­ship-trained breast im­ager Dr. Amanda Bauer works with new dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy equip­ment in the Women’s Di­ag­nos­tic Cen­ter at New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

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