At the MemorialCare Breast Center, advanced diagnostic tools allow doctors to identify this treacherous disease sooner than ever before. "The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more likely it will be treated successfully," says Angela Sie, M.D., imaging director at the Breast Center. "What makes our Breast Center unique is our advanced technology, breadth and depth of breast imaging experience and the convenience of a 'one-stop-shopping' type of location."
THE CLEAR ADVANTAGE
Mammography is still one of the most effective tools available for breast cancer screening. But not all mammograms are created equal. "Digital mammography has some clear advantages over film mammography," says Dr. Sie. "A recent study by the National Cancer Institute found that this is especially true for women who are younger than 50, premenopausal, in the early stages of menopause or have dense breast tissue." Digital mammography is currently available at only about 8 percent of breast imaging facilities in the country, including the MemorialCare Breast Center.
In digital mammography, images are recorded directly onto a computer, rather than film. From a patient perspective, a digital mammogram seems like a conventional mammogram. But there are benefits—a lower dose of radiation being one. Also, because digital images are instantly available, technologists know immediately if a retake is necessary. They also have the ability to enlarge or manipulate a digital image to highlight a specific area of concern, allowing abnormalities to be more easily detected.
Physician experience and training is another important factor when it comes to interpreting mammograms. The Breast Center team includes three radiologists who are fellowship-trained, subspecialists in breast imaging. Recently named a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology, the Breast Center offers second opinions and diagnostic mammograms for women who have symptoms or an abnormal result.
Ultrasound also is a technique the Breast Center uses to evaluate a potential concern found during a screening mammogram or physical exam. "This imaging technique uses sound waves to look inside the body. It's useful in evaluating solid masses, cysts and areas of concern felt by the patient or their health care provider," explains Dr. Sie.
Although mammography and ultrasound can detect abnormalities, only a biopsy can confirm whether a growth is benign or malignant. The Breast Center offers more than 10 different types of breast biopsies. The size, location and appearance of a patient's abnormality helps to determine the type of biopsy that's best. Having a full array of biopsy choices is important to women facing a possible cancer diagnosis. "A majority of breast biopsies are performed immediately after an abnormality is detected, rather than scheduling the test for a later appointment," says Dr. Sie. "A distinguishing feature of the Breast Center is its 'one-stop-shopping' convenience for patients. This means that a woman's entire workup, including a biopsy if deemed necessary, can be completed in a single appointment. Furthermore, surgery can sometimes be avoided with the use of the latest technology at the Breast Center."
"Our goal is to create a warm and comforting environment for women," says Dr. Sie. Soft cloth robes instead of hospital gowns, comfortable furnishings and attractive décor make the MemorialCare Breast Center feel more like a spa than a hospital environment. And for newly diagnosed women, on-site social workers and peer support groups such as Breast Friends offer much needed encouragement and support.