Mammography unit aids Valley View in early breast cancer detection
February 11, 2018
Valley View Hospital received its first mammography unit in 1988. Now, 30 years later, the hospital boasts the most advanced mammography technology on the Western Slope.
Valley View recently installed its first Genius 3D mammography exam unit, and plans to put in another this week. The 3D exams, as opposed to the traditional 2D exams, increase cancer detection rates by 41 percent and allow doctors to be better able to differentiate cancers and find them sooner, according to hospital officials.
"One in eight women are expected to develop breast cancer in their lifetime, so it's very important that we do a good job of monitoring each patient on a year-to-year basis," said Lynn Imel, imaging director at Valley View. "The earlier we find the cancer, the more chance we have of curing it."
Dr. Jason DiCarlo, a radiologist with Mountain Radiology, explained that, in the breast, there are many types of glandular and fibular tissues that overlay cancers, making them hard to detect on typical X-rays.
"It's like trying to see the sun on a cloudy day, you might not be able to see it," DiCarlo said. "What 3D does is let us cut through the clouds to see the sun — or, in this case the cancer or abnormality."
When a patient first comes to Valley View for a mammogram, they enter the imaging department through the women's center, which is designed to be more private and comforting, Imel said. The Genius 3D exam itself is different from previous exams in that the trays are better able to tilt and flex to the shape of the breast, being less restricting than previous exams.
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The hospital hopes to have an update to the system soon, once FDA approved, which decreases the time the patient's breasts are compressed in the exam from 10 seconds to 3.5 seconds.
"Pain and discomfort during mammograms is something that could deter patients from having the exams, which keeps me from my purpose of detecting and treating cancer early on," DiCarlo said. "Without that intimidation, hopefully more women will get the exam."
The real genius of Genius 3D is in the images it produces. DiCarlo said the images have a much higher contrast resolution than before, allowing doctors to see micro-calcifications, a very early sign of an abnormality. The program also allows the image of the breast to be broken into 30 different sections, or frames, allowing a more thorough look at the entire breast.
In addition, software in the program can point out areas of concern that the doctor might have missed and should take a second look at.
Imel described it as the "first wave of [artificial intelligence] that can help us find cancers."
When a patient comes in for a mammogram at Valley View, they get their results and speak to a doctor that same day, reducing the waiting and anxiety that may accompany visits. The improved 3D technology also reduces callbacks — having to have a patient come back for further examination because a possible abnormality showed up — by about 40 percent.
Beyond the importance of decreasing anxiety for a patient, Imel said that also decreases the cost of follow-up visits.
In just the first couple weeks of having the new technology, DiCarlo said he's already sure they detected an abnormality in a patient sooner than they would have using the old technology.
"I really do believe that Valley View offers the best care you can get," he said. And he has reason to believe it.
Three years ago, DiCarlo was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
"I had options to really get treatment anywhere in the country and I chose to have it all done at Valley View because I believe in the hospital and I know they practice excellence," he said.
DiCarlo said he shares his story when he has to deliver tough diagnoses and patients are scared or hesitant on what next steps to take and where.
"I think that endorsement goes a long way," he said.
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