Digital technology aids breast cancer detection at St. Luke’s

Published 7:07 pm Thursday, November 12, 2009

As October came to an end, so did National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (NBCAM). A movement designed to bring awareness to the prevention and detection of breast cancer, NBCAM has reached millions of individuals as hundreds of businesses, hospitals and physicians offices have joined the fight to unite us all in the cause. Breast cancer is now the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 40 and 55.

Digital mammography is the latest technology in the fight against breast cancer, and the latest technology is available at St. Lukes Hospital. This front line technology uses a powerful computer to create superior, high quality images of the breast, which increases the physicians ability to detect cancer and other abnormalities.

Digital mammography definitely has advantages for the consumer, said Teresa Marlowe, director of Imaging Services at St. Lukes Hospital in Columbus. Its quicker, offering our patients the convenience of having her breasts screened without waiting for wet film processing. For our radiologists with Hendersonville Radiological Consultants, digital mammograms provide more comprehensive visibility. This translates into a win-win situation for the patient.

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Women with dense breasts can certainly benefit from digital mammography, Marlowe said, adding that many younger women and women choosing hormone replacement therapy may have dense breasts. For them, screening with digital mammography provides better penetration of the breast tissue.

Recent studies have proven digital mammography to be better than standard mammography for detecting lesions in the breast, especially for women with dense breast tissue, women who are under the age of 50, and both pre-menopausal and peri-menopausal women. Because digital mammography is clearer than traditional film, the radiologist can manipulate and magnify specific areas of the image and adjust the contrast so abnormalities are easier to see.

Computer manipulation results in earlier diagnoses and lesions are often caught when they are still confined to the breast and not spreading to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Earlier detection means higher success rates in treating cancer.

Women will notice little difference when going for a digital mammogram at St. Lukes Hospital. The procedure is the same as for traditional film mammography, but less time consuming, since images are ready for technologist review within a few minutes on the digital workstation. The radiologist can process and retrieve the images faster. Digital mammography is filmless, nothing has to be developed.

Images are analyzed on a monitor and stored. Of course, hard copies can always be produced if needed. In addition to allowing the mammogram to be manipulated and enhanced for evaluation, digital mammography allows radiology technologists to know within seconds if they captured an acceptable image.

While compression of the tissue is an uncomfortable but necessary part of the procedure to obtain an acceptable image, the Mammography staff at

St. Lukes Hospital provide education and understanding to ease their patients anxiety.

Its important that women not put off getting a mammogram for fear of the pain or the possibility of breast cancer, Marlowe said. All women over 40 should be screened annually. Though technology has changed, early detection is still the key to surviving breast cancer. Never put off a mammogram.

To schedule your annual mammogram, call St. Lukes Radiology Department at 894-3525 ext. 3590. You do not need a physicians referral.

Providing our community with life-saving imaging services is just another way St. Lukes Hospital continues to provide exceptional care, close to home.~ Caring for the Community