Digital mammography an advance for screening

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2002

Editor’s note: Digital mammography information was submitted by Obici Hospital.

To remain focused on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this column is being written to educate the public of the latest breast cancer screening device, digital mammography.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Obici sponsored a program in the conference room on the garden level floor. The topic was &uot;Fears, Facts and Fiction About Breast Cancer.&uot; Events like this one are offered monthly to the community as a part of the hospital’s Wellness Program and since this is breast cancer month, the focus was on that topic.

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Obici Hospital is the only hospital in the Tidewater area that has this advanced machine.

I was tested by the digital one at Obici on Oct. 3 and my results were returned on Oct. 8. I was very pleased with it, and for me, the procedure wasn’t very expensive at all. However, many insurance programs will pay for the test; therefore, when you make your appointment, always have your insurance information ready at the time of registration. However, the price of a good mammogram will never take the place of a life that may have been saved. So then, when it’s time for your annual mammogram, make it a digital one because it is your strongest

new ally in the fight against breast cancer.

Digital images appear in seconds on a computer screen, revealing an exciting new world of diagnostic possibilities – better visibility at the skin line, greater image flexibility, shorter exam times, faster results, fewer call backs and less anxiety.

Request your digital for all the right reasons.

*A digital mammography exam usually takes less than half the time of traditional film-based exam and there’s less of a chance you’ll be called back to retake your images.

It may cost slightly more to receive a digital mammogram, but you deserve the most state-of-the art healthcare possible.

*Your physician will gain viewing options never before possible with the unique ability to enhance certain areas to get a more precise picture of your condition.

*Your breast images can be zoomed in and out, and the contrast can be lightened or darkened. Also, through an inverting feature, black can reverse to white and white can change to black. This feature helps detect microcalcifications, which is like revealing a grain of salt in a ball of clay. All three image enhancements help improve diagnostic potential-and can be accomplished without your presence in the room.

*Digital images give better visibility of the breast, particularly near the skin line, chestwall and in women with dense breast tissue.

Here are a few questions one may ask when switching to digital mammography.

Why the switch to digital?

Digital mammography was developed for many important reasons. The system transfers images to a computer so they can be electronically enhanced. Your doctor can zoom in, magnify and optimize different parts of the breast tissue using just four standard pictures.

How do digital mammograms differ from conventional film?

The steps involved from your perspective will be very similar. How the images are captured and what healthcare providers can do with them sets digital apart. Digital mammograms let your doctor focus in on the areas of concern, which enhance readability and interpretation of the image. Digital allows the image to be stored and transferred electronically and stored indefinitely.

When should I have a mammogram?

If you’re a women 40 and over, you should have a mammogram every year to check for abnormalities or lumps that may indicate early stages of breast cancer. Mammograms can see cancerous lesions earlier than you can feel them with a self-exam.

How long will my digital mammogram take?

It will take about 10 to 15 minutes for your healthcare provider to acquire the images. The compression and positioning are the same as traditional mammography but with less waiting time and

far fewer call backs -a 20 to 30 percent reduction in call backs. Your doctor will know right away if the image positioning is correct.

I’ve heard that digital mammography is better for patients who have dense breasts. What is the difference between dense and fatty breasts?

Your breasts contains varying amounts of glandular (dense) tissue and fatty tissue. The more glandular tissue, the denser the breast. Digital mammography allows for contrast enhancing of the breast tissue without additional radiation exposure, as opposed to a traditional film method..

Does a digital mammogram involve any radiation?

The amount of radiation you’ll receive is approximately the same as with a traditional film mammogram, but may be less if you have very dense breast tissue.

Is there anything I can do to make the exam go more smoothly?

It’s best not to wear deodorant or powder the day of your exam since it could affect the image. Also, wear a two-piece outfit because you’ll need to undress from the waist up. Schedule your mammogram shortly after the end of your period to ease any discomfort.

To reduce your risk of breast cancer

– Have your children before age 30

– Breast feed your children

– Limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day

– Maintain a healthy weight

– Exercise regularly

If you fall into the category to have a mammography performed please make your appointment by calling the Radiology Department at Obici 934-4542.