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Staying abreast of technology

Athens MammoThere’s great news for women across Henderson County: ETMC Athens is now using a state-of-the-art full field digital mammography unit.

The new unit replaces the film-based imaging station, with the difference being much like going from a 35 mm camera to a digital camera.

And while film-based mammography units are still being used nationwide, there are definite advantages to the new digital unit, said Richard Vasquez, director of the ETMC Athens radiology department.

“With the digital unit, we can manipulate the image in a way that isn’t possible with film. And the image resolution is so much higher now,” he said.

Once the images are captured – and no, ladies, that part of it hasn’t changed – they are sent to a CAD program (Computer Aided Device) that “looks” at the images prior to the radiologist and identifies any areas of potential concern. From there, they are sent on to a reading station where the radiologist examines them.

“We were already using CAD, but we couldn’t manipulate the images with the film-based units,” explained Vasquez. “Now, if there’s an area of interest, the radiologist can make it lighter or darker or manipulate the contrast levels as needed.”

Women will also be happy to know the digital mammography unit has significantly shortened the amount of time it takes to actually capture the necessary images.

“We still have to compress, but the image comes up instantly now,” said Licensed Mammographer Shelly Robertson, RT-(AART)(R)(M). “I can decide immediately whether it’s what we need or not.”

With the film-based mammography station, Robertson would capture several images and then develop those in the dark room – a process taking six or seven minutes – before being able to determine if they were useable or more images needed to be taken.
“It’s instant now, and that’s a significant plus,” said Robertson.

The American Cancer Society recommends women from the ages of 20 to 39 have clinical breast exams performed by their healthcare providers at least every three years and do self-exams once a month. Ask your healthcare provider to teach you the proper way to do a thorough breast self-exam.

Women 40 and over should have mammograms and clinical breast exams performed every year, as well as performing breast self-exams each month.

If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, discuss mammography screening guidelines and scheduling with your healthcare provider.

To schedule an appointment or for more information about the mammography system at the ETMC Athens Breast Care Center, please call 903-676-2169.

Originally posted August 15 2008