Quad Cities, IL/IA

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A Comprehensive Approach to Diagnostic Breast Care and Treatment


By KD Flick, Physician Liaison, Genesis Imaging Centers

It’s a constant of modern life. The incessant “noise” of commercial messages and social media that prompt us for constant attention. We’re saturated in “communication,” yet in the end, it has the effect of reducing the extraordinary into the ordinary in the jumble of it all. That is, until one day when something dramatically changes and we need to seek the extraordinary. Sometimes, unexpectedly, the Extraordinary finds us.

Genesis Health System’s regionally unique approach to comprehensive breast health is one such example. Through a combination of conveniently located Mammography screening centers, paired with the Kenneth H. McKay Center for Breast Health’s progressive approach to diagnostic care and treatment, Genesis has developed a comprehensive model of mammography care unique in the region. The Screening centers are designed to maximize the patient experience by offering a high level of convenience and easy access; the Kenneth H. McKay Center for Breast Health offers the latest diagnostic and treatment technology, and streamlines the entire diagnostic experience — from consultations to diagnosis, planning, treatment, and support.

Many women seek the convenience of the imaging centers for their annual screening mammogram. A few days later, she’ll receive a letter confirming her breast health, and a reminder to schedule her next mammogram. Or, she may become one of the ten percent of women who will be called back for further evaluation. Or, she may progress to become one of the two to four percent who will hear those alarming words, “breast cancer.” On that day, the Center for Breast Health (CBH) is ready to spring into action for her. As a Center of Excellence for breast health care, CBH offers the latest diagnostic and treatment technology available in the fight against breast cancer. It coordinates and streamlines the entire care process, from diagnosis through planning, treatment, and support. Physician teams review individual cases to ensure patients have the best treatment options. A surgical care team — breast health radiologists from Radiology Group, PCSC, nurses, and mammography technologists — all work on-site to provide a continuity of care and encouragement.

“At CBH, we see a wide variety of patients,” said Dr. Christine Walsh, radiologist, fellowship-trained breast specialist, and member of Radiology Group, PCSC’s breast health team. “When a patient comes to us with a suspicious finding, we provide a thorough evaluation using a combination of mammography, ultrasound, and MRI. If necessary, we also perform minimally invasive imaging guided biopsies. When cancer is suspected, the follow-up process is a very high-stress situation for women. It’s very important to me that patients are well informed and comfortable — and they know what to expect. I enjoy working with our patients, being part of a multidisciplinary team, and providing personalized care.”

Excellence is always top-of-the-mind at Genesis Imaging Centers and CBH. Both are committed to superior professional expertise, and achieving innovative goals. For example, a new revolutionary piece of diagnostic technology has been added to the breast cancer arsenal. This past July, Genesis Health System and Genesis Imaging Centers became the first in the Quad Cities to install 3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis). 3D mammography increases the detection of invasive breast cancers by up to 41 percent, and may reduce the frequency of “call-backs” for additional views.

“We recommend 3D mammography for all women of all breast types. It is simply a better mammogram,” explained Dr. Dietrich Gerhardt, lead breast health radiologist at CBH and Radiology Group, PCSC. “This technology is clinically proven, and it’s the most accurate mammogram available. Not to mention that it’s the biggest breakthrough in breast cancer detection in 30 years. We know that many women see mammograms as something scary. But the truth is that detecting cancer at its earliest allows for nearly a 100 percent survival rate. That’s why we recommend annual screening beginning at age 40.”

Annual screening mammography remains the “gold standard” for cancer detection, and is the most effective breast cancer-screening tool used today. To its credit, mammography has helped reduce the death rate in the United States by 30 percent.

Patients often ask what radiologists are looking for when they interpret (or “read”) a mammogram. That answer falls into three categories:

  • Masses — Masses can be many things, including non-cancerous cysts and tumors. Other masses can resemble cancer, and may require a biopsy to reach a sure diagnosis.
  • Cysts — A cyst is a fluid-filled, small sac in the breast tissue that can feel like a soft lump. To confirm a cyst, either a breast ultrasound is performed, or fluid is removed from the sac using a fine needle, and then sent to a pathologist (a doctor that specializes in diagnosing diseases by studying tissue samples under a microscope) for evaluation. It is rare for a cyst to be cancerous.
  • Calcifications or Microcalcifications — These are tiny calcium deposits in breast tissue that appear as small, white spots on the radiologist’s computer screen. The spots may occur individually, or in clusters. Calcifications indicate that there are changes within the breast tissue that could be benign (harmless) or cancerous. If they appear benign, those calcifications will require careful monitoring, along with periodic mammograms. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy is performed so that the suspicious tissue can be examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.

As discussed above, it’s helpful to remember that of all the mammograms performed, about 10 percent will require further evaluation. Don’t be alarmed if you are one of the 10 percent to receive a “call-back.” For the majority, only additional mammogram views will be needed; two to four mammograms out of every 1,000 will lead to a diagnosis of cancer.

As an extension of the CBH system of early breast cancer detection, Genesis Imaging Centers function as outpatient imaging centers of Genesis Health System. Imaging Center locations in Davenport, Bettendorf, and Moline offer convenient 2D and 3D mammography; plus, no doctor’s order is necessary. Additionally, the Iowa Centers provide an extensive range of advanced cancer detection technology, including CT, MRI, Ultrasound, CT/PET, and Nuclear Medicine.

No one likes to think about breast cancer until we, or someone we love, are diagnosed with it. One thing is certain, however. Genesis Imaging Centers and the Center for Breast Health are your safe harbors in the face of the breast cancer tsunami. Schedule your annual mammogram today. No doctor’s order is needed. To schedule, call (563)- 421-XRAY (9729) or (563) 421-3200.

Photo credit: Enterline Design Services LLC/Christopher Futcher/iStock

Why Are Annual Mammograms Important?

By not getting annual mammograms starting at age 40, you increase your chances of dying from breast cancer, and the likelihood that you will experience more extensive treatment for any cancers found. Annual mammograms can detect cancer early — when it is most treatable. In fact, mammograms show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Mammograms can also prevent the need for extensive treatment for advanced cancers, and improve chances of breast conservation. Current guidelines from the American Medical Association, American College of Radiology, Mayo Clinic, the American College of Surgeons, and the Society for Breast Imaging recommend that women receive annual mammograms starting at age 40 — even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. To learn more, visit www.mammographysaveslives.org/Facts.aspx.