01/19/2017

Life-saving technology: Schedule your mammogram today

Almost all of us know someone who’s had breast cancer. In fact, about 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Just this year alone, the American Cancer Society estimates 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.

In 2015, the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion, saw 406 breast cancer cases. Out of those cases, 383 were new breast cancer patients. 2016 data is still being complied.

On a positive note, death rates from breast cancer have been dropping since 1989, according to the American Cancer Society. Researchers believe that’s due to early detection through screening and increased awareness.

“Mammography is the best detection for early breast cancer,” says Pattie Barnes, RT(R)(M)(BS) with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Telfair Pavilion. “It’s the standard of care.”

A mammogram is radiographic imaging of the breast in whichever view is necessary to detect and evaluate breast changes. St. Joseph’s/Candler imaging services offer both 2D and 3D digital mammograms for screening and diagnostic purposes.

How mammograms work

A mammography machine is designed to look at breast tissue. The machine has two plates that compress or flatten the breast to spread the breast tissue allowing for a better image of the breast but with less radiation used.

During a standard mammogram, the machine provides two views of each breast, Barnes says. The CC View, or cranial caudal, comes down from the top (cranial) all the way down to the caudal (meaning feet). The second view is called MLO, or mediolateral-oblique, and comes from the side at an angle.

All mammograms at St. Joseph’s/Candler are digital rather than produced on film. Therefore, images can be manipulated to enhance quality. Digital mammography is especially effective in women with dense breasts, which can be inherited and is common in younger women.

In addition to screenings, the Telfair Pavilion offers breast ultrasounds, stereotactic needle biopsies, fine-needle aspiration, core needle biopsies and needle localizations for diagnostic purposes.

Are mammograms painful?

Mammograms are not painful, but can be uncomfortable, Barnes says. The technology shouldn’t compress so much that it feels like it’s going to pull your breast off.

“It is going to be uncomfortable because it uses a moderate amount of compression, and you want to use compression because the more compression, the more you spread out that dense fibrocystic breast tissue,” says Barnes. “Right now, compression is the best way to get a breast exam so it may be uncomfortable, but it should not be painful.”

Why get a mammogram?

Through mammography, doctors can find tumors before they can be felt. Mammograms also show other changes in the breast structure which doctors believe point to early cancer detection.

The latest technology available at St. Joseph’s/Candler to detect tumors is 3D mammography. 3D mammography has been shown to:

  • Have a 27% improvement in cancer detection rates
  • 3D detects 41% more invasive breast cancers
  • 3D reduces false positives by up to 40%
  • With early detection and clean lymph nodes, the five year survival rate is almost 100%

The breast is a three-dimensional object composed of different structures, such as blood vessels, milk ducts, fat and ligaments, which are located at different heights within the breast. A 3D mammogram offers patients a more comprehensive exam by allowing radiologists and doctors to see through possible overlapping tissue in the breast for better visualization of early cancers.

“I don’t want to say the word better because that denotes that 2D is no good,” says Barnes. “I always tell patients that 3D is more thorough. A 3D is like peeling each layer off and viewing each layer so you can see the fine aspects of the breast much better in 3D.”

If it’s time for your first ever mammogram, Barnes recommends starting with a 3D exam and sticking with 3D exams throughout your life. She also highly recommends 3D mammograms for any female with a family history of breast cancer, personal history of having the disease, has dense breast tissue or a lump that is felt but not seen on a standard 2D.

When should you get a mammogram?

Yearly breast cancer screenings are recommended for women ages 40 to 55, and it is recommended that those 55 and older have a screening every two years. However, Barnes – as well as most doctors – encourages all women over 40 to have yearly screenings, especially if your insurance covers it.

Medicare and only a few other insurances cover the 3D portion of the mammogram so a $45 co-pay is requested for those with insurance that does not cover 3D. There is no co-pay with a 2D exam.

“If you have been doing 2D all your life, and you don’t have a family history or any prior problems, then a lot of patients stick with 2D,” Barnes says.

Schedule your appointment now

2D and 3D mammography is available at the many St. Joseph’s/Candler Imaging locations including the Telfair Pavilion in Candler Hospital (3D available), St. Joseph’s Hospital Imaging, SJ/C Imaging Center – Pooler (3D available), Telfair Breast Imaging Center – Eisenhower (3D available), and The Imaging Center at Belfair Towne Village East in Bluffton.

Call now and request your appointment for your next mammogram at 912-819-PINK or through the St. Joseph’s/Candler iConnect.

“I know people have that stigma in their mind that it hurts or it’s tender or painful but we are finding things – three, four, five millimeters – on mammograms that we never found before,” says Barnes. “We are keeping patients from having huge lumpectomies, and we are finding it before it can spread.”

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000