Eight seconds to wait, for a lifetime of safety
The facts on Mammograms
It was time for my yearly mammogram. Not something that I was particularly looking forward to but something I knew should be done. My appointment was made, (two months later than I should have made it) and everything was set.
Why more women don’t have mammograms surprises me. It’s relatively painless, quick and can save your life. Now for the one thousand seven, one thousand eight part. When you go in to get your mammogram, a technician will help ‘position you’ in the mammogram machine. To actually take the image the machine needs to compact the breast. It’s not the most comfortable feeling in the world to have your breast smashed into a machine. They need to take two images of each breast, one from the front and one from the side. During this time I counted…one thousand one… one thousand two… I counted to eight. Eight seconds for each image times four. That comes to 32 seconds. I guess I can deal with a little bit of discomfort for 32 seconds if it means possibly catching breast cancer in the early stages. Statistics show that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. So if it doesn’t happen to you, it will probably happen to someone you know.
In November The Baptist Women’s Imaging Center brought the first digital mammography system to East Tennessee. Its state-of-the-art technology is poised to revolutionize the detection of breast cancer. Much like digital photography, there is no film to develop and the images are much clearer than traditional mammography.
“Here at Baptist, we always want to be on the cutting edge of technology,” said Dr. John Stallworth, M.D., a radiologist with the Women’s Imaging Center. “I think this is going to significantly aid us in detecting breast cancer earlier.” Renna Kent, a records clerk for the Imaging Center said, “It’s amazing what the new system can do. After the first year, we’ll be able to just pull up someone’s mammogram from the year before and check them side by side digitally. It will really be a benefit.”
This new mammography system produces breast images through computerization rather than on x-ray film. There are many advantages. The images are clear and easy to read and can give better visibility, especially near the skin line. Using digital technology the image is ready within 10 seconds and can be sent immediately via computer to the radiologist. There, the radiologist can manipulate the images like never before.
“We can magnify the image on the computer rather than having to use the traditional magnifying glass,” said Stallworth. “It makes it much easier for us to evaluate the breast from the image. I believe we’re going to consistently get better examinations over the long haul with digital mammography.”
For the patient, the mammography test using compression is virtually the same. But the result is dramatically different. Not only does it produce clearer images, women no longer have to wait while films are developed to make sure the images are usable. This means the test can take half the amount of time of a film mammogram. And the chances of having to repeat the test are decreased, thus cutting down on the amount of radiation to the breast.
“Digital mammography allows us to offer our patients state-of-the-art mammograms with the least possible hassle and disruption to their lives,” said Stallworth. “Early detection is the key.”
Robin Wilhoit with Channel 10 News has been a big supporter of women getting regular breast exams. The station started a program called, “Buddy Check.” Buddy Check is a simple reminder that a regular breast self-exam is an important step for the early detection of breast cancer. The premise is that you find a Buddy, whether it is a family member, friend or co-worker, then you mark your calendar and on the 10th of each month you call your Buddy and remind each other to do your breast self-exam.
“Buddy Check has been around a little over five years now” stated Wilhoit. “The station came to me and asked if I would like to start this program promoting breast exams and I said of course I would, I was very interested in taking part in it. Our station runs a series of promos and monthly we focus on a story about breast cancer. We want to get the awareness out there.” Wilhoit said the station teamed up with Baptist Hospital to put the program together. “It’s great because I get emails and phone calls from people who share their stories with me” said Wilhoit. “It affects everyone. Not just one group of people. Some people think that it couldn’t happen to them, but it can. The scary thing is it’s happening to younger women all the time some as young as their twenties.”
One alarming statistic is that most breast cancer cases (80%) occur in women with no family history of the disease. The risk of developing breast cancer increases dramatically with age from 1 to 2,212 at age 30 to 1 in 235 by age 40. This year in the United States an estimated 184,000 women will learn they have breast cancer (but it also affects men, about 1,400 a year.)
“When you compare having a mammogram to the consequences of not having one, it just doesn’t make sense not to do it. It’s smart to just check it out,” stated Wilhoit.
To make an appointment for digital mammography, call the Baptist Women’s Imaging Center at 632-5366. To find out more about ‘Buddy Check’ you can look at WBIR’s website at http://www.wbir.com/features/buddycheck.asp