Hospital joins the digital age with scanner

Nov. 4
November 4, 2008
Roger "Jay" Rebstock
November 6, 2008
Nov. 4
November 4, 2008
Roger "Jay" Rebstock
November 6, 2008

It’s common knowledge that a routine mammogram for women is the single most important step in the prevention and detection of breast cancer.

But all too often, women avoid getting routine mammograms because of the pain and discomfort associated with the exam.

However, Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital’s patients no longer have that excuse.

After more than 30 years of using the conventional method of mammography, Ochsner St. Anne now offers digital mammography which takes half the time of traditional film-based exams and gives faster, more detailed results.

John Flannery, director of radiology at Ochsner St. Anne, believes the delay in updating the antiquated machinery was for the Ochsner Health System to ensure the success of digital mammography.

With the new system, each Ochsner facility will be able to offer the same level of mammography technology, Flannery said.

“Any physician wants to be confident in knowing that they can send any of their patients to one of the Ochsner affiliates and they will receive consistent results across the board,” he added.

To offer the new system, Ochsner partnered with New Orleans-based Tansey Breast Center.

“This newest Selenia model, offered by Hologic, enables radiologists to review images immediately, while patients wait, and more closely inspect suspicious areas to make immediate decisions,” Flannery explained.

As of last week, the digital system was two weeks old.

The hospital used breast cancer awareness month to unveil the new system because their mammography patient numbers tend to increase during that time.

Abby Authement, a registered radiographic mammography technologist, said on average nearly 150 mammograms are performed a month, but during breast cancer awareness month the number jumps to nearly 250.

For any hospital using digital mammography, the technology has definite benefits.

Mammograms, a low-dose X-ray, are a critical tool in the early detection of breast cancer. During the procedure, the breast is compressed using paddles so that a technologist can get a picture of all of the tissue.

With digital mammography, Flannery said radiologists can magnify images, increase or decrease the contrast and invert the black and white values, allowing them to evaluate the micro-calcifications and focus on areas of concern.

In conjunction with the new system, Ochsner St. Anne has a computer-aided detection system (CAD) that provides a second mammogram reading to assist in an accurate diagnosis.

“The physicians are the first eyes and the computer serves as a second set,” Flannery said. “The digital CAD highlights characteristics commonly associated with breast cancer. When activated, it flags abnormalities to help detect early cancer.”

Flannery said the only noticeable differences between the two methods are shorter exam times and a reduced number of callbacks for additional imaging.

“Because digital mammography provides better visualization of the breast tissue, it’s particularly beneficial for women with dense breast, which includes younger women, women on hormone replacement therapy and women who have had breast augmentations,” he explained.

Ochsner St. Anne’s radiology staff believes it is important to do what they can to get women into the center for their exams. They expect women age 35 and older to have a mammogram every year.

To help with some of the pain and discomfort felt during the old method, the hospital has also invested in mammopad, a foam cushion placed between the patient’s breast and the compression paddle of the mammography unit.

Jerri Lynn Champagne, 39, began getting mammograms a couple of years ago following doctor’s orders. She is one of the first few patients to use the new system at Ochsner St. Anne.

Compared to her first time, Champagne said this recent mammogram was faster and almost painless.

Before, she sustained minor soreness in her upper breast tissue with the conventional method because of the structure of the compression pads. With the new system, however, she noticed that the flexibility of the pads is a bit more comforting.

A study by the National Breast Cancer Centers shows that 70 percent of the women in the study said the mammopad reduced their discomfort.

The pad also helped get better images because it is more comfortable to the patient, and the breast tissue was less likely to move when the mammopad was holding the tissue in place.

By adding digital mammography, Ochsner St. Anne is able to address the physical, emotional and educational needs surrounding breast health.

Abby Authement, a registered radiographic mammography technologist, readies the new digital mammography system at Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital for the many female patients looking to try the new system out. The hospital debuted the new machine just in time for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. * Photo by SOPHIA RUFFIN