Digital Mammography Arrives at NMH
Helps Expand Availability of Women’s Services in Sussex, Pike, Warren Counties; Radiology Department Earns National Accreditation for Mammography
October 26, 2010
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NEWTON - Knowing early detection is key, Newton Memorial Hospital on Tuesday began offering digital mammography testing, a more efficient and accurate tool for identifying microcalcifications and subtle tumors particularly in young women with dense breasts.
Michelle O’Shea, M.D., a general surgeon who specializes in breast surgery as a part of cancer treatments, explained that women with dense breasts - that is women with mostly active breast tissue and very little fat - may present mammography photos with a white background, which complicates the detection of cancer since small tumors also appear white on images.
“Sometimes, with the current mammography technology trying to find subtle tumors is kind of like searching for a snowman in a snowstorm,” she said. “Digital mammography has improved resolution and makes it easier to locate those small cancerous tissues within the breasts.”
The hospital spent the last several months converting from film-screen technology to digital radiograph mammography, which uses lower doses of radiation to catch higher resolution images. It also will help reduce wait time for patients and increase the number of mammograms the hospital’s radiology department can perform each day.
“Ultimately, digital mammography enables us to enhance the level of care available to the community by allowing us to catch higher resolution images which will lead to more accurate diagnoses,” said Sean O’Rourke, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Newton Memorial. “It’s also a more efficient tool. By going digital, the technologist can perform repeat views immediately without re-positioning the patient. We estimate the improved productivity will reduce exam time by approximately 10 minutes.”
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in women. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed last year among women in the United States.
Although there are other screening tests available, mammography remains the best available method to detect breast cancer early. In addition, Newton Memorial Hospital is fully accreditated by the American College of Radiology for its mammography services.
This prestigious accreditation represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety. It is awareded only to facilities meeting ACR Practice Guidelines and Technical Standards after a peer-review evaluation by board-certified physicians and medical physicists who are experts in the field. Imaging quality, personnel qualifications, adequacy of facility equipment, quality control procedures and quality assurance programs are assessed.
“Digital mammography definitely improves early cancer detection particularly in women with dense breasts,” said Dr. O’Shea, of Summit Breast Care in Sparta. “Right now, our best defense against breast cancer is early detection; it’s a great addition to the hospital.”
In conjunction with digital mammography, the hospital also added bone densitometry to its menu of radiology/imaging services. Bone densitometry measures bone loss very common in women in the post-menopausal stage of life.
“We see many physicians who often prescribe both mammography and bone densitometry services in the same visit,” said Steve Flynn, Director of Imaging Services. “We want to do all we can to minimize the anxiety associated with these exams. By placing both of these imaging capabilities under one roof at Newton Memorial, we can better meet the needs of our female patients and help reduce their stress.”
The addition of digital mammography and bone densitometry is part of a larger expansion of radiology/imaging services occurring at Newton Memorial. In 2011, the hospital plans to add magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) capabilities to its radiology/imaging suite as well.
To learn more about digital mammography and bone densitometry, please watch the C. Edward McCracken Festival of Lights video. All proceeds from Festival of Lights, which will be held Nov. 20, will go help offset the costs of bringing these vital imaging services to Newton Memorial Hospital.