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Early Detection Saves Lives—3D Mammography at the Washington Women's Center

Early Detection Saves Lives—3D Mammography at the Washington Women's Center

How long has it been since you’ve had a mammogram?

No one claims that getting a mammogram will be the most fun part of a day. But the Women’s Center at Washington Hospital makes the experience as quick and pleasant as possible. “We’ve tried to create a serene atmosphere. We provide our patients with comfortable robes, a pleasant seating area with tea and other beverages and, most important, our technologists are respectful of patients’ time, and modesty,” says Nurse Navigator, Christine Mikkelsen. From registration to departure, most patients are in and out within an hour.

In recent years, patients have delayed seeking health screenings notes Medical Director of Medical Imaging, Sunil Upender, MD. He says, “Early diagnosis for breast cancer or any abnormalities in the breast tissue is critical for the best outcomes. During the pandemic people were hesitant to go to medical appointments for fear of exposure. But COVID cases have decreased and we have maintained our high standards of infection prevention, mitigating any risk.”

Since 2020, Washington Hospital has been using 3D mammography, which is also known as digital breast tomography (DBT). This advanced technology has heightened the accuracy of mammograms. Dr. Upender notes, “3D imaging is better at discerning overlapping structures than 2D imaging. This is particularly beneficial in patients with dense breast parenchyma. 3D imaging can differentiate overlapping densities, decreasing the number of follow-up calls. Additionally, 3D can be more sensitive to true abnormalities.”

Radiologists at Washington Hospital have found cancers with 3D mammography that would not have been detected on 2D. This 3D system offers the most advanced technology available, as it provides both 3D and 2D images from just one scan. This is important because it provides an additional flat image that better shows calcifications and allows the radiologist to readily compare the patient’s 2D scans from previous years to identify changes, if any.

Multiple studies reviewed by Dr. Upender continue to show mammography screening is the best way to identify cancers at an early, treatable stage. A 2019 study led by world-renowned breast cancer expert Laszlo Tabar, showed that women who underwent routine mammography screening demonstrated a 60% lower risk of dying from breast cancer within a decade of diagnosis than women who were not screened. Recommendations for routine mammographic screening may vary, but all organizations agree that annual mammograms beginning at age 40 save the most lives.

Washington Hospital has worked to improve access for patients by increasing the hours of operation, including Saturdays from 7:45 a.m. to noon, and adding a second 3D mammography unit, expanding available appointment times.

However long it has been, now is the time to schedule a mammogram. Once a patient has an order from their primary care physician, they can call 510.818.7410 to schedule their mammogram. Mikkelsen encourages, “We’re here for you. Talk to your physician today.”

Learn more about the Women's Center.