Breast cancer detection just got a little easier thanks to state-of-the-art equipment being offered at North Shore Medical Center.
Over the past 10 years, advancements at the hospital have been drastic, according to NSMC Mammography Supervisor Deanna Smith, who said the most noted change is the switch from analog equipment to digital imagery.
“It’s faster, easier to use, it’s like a digital camera,” Smith said. “It’s also fool-proof and we rarely have to repeat a film since it’s automatic exposure.”
Smith said in years past, the analog technology required technicians to painstakingly develop the film in a darkroom while the patient waited.
“And if all four pictures (x-rays) that were taken came out terrible, then the patient would have to go through the whole procedure again,” she said. “But now, the technician can instantly see how the pictures turned out and images can be compared to the prior years’ pictures on the computer screen.”
The machine is also equipped to provide “intelligent roaming” where the technician can magnify the image true to size, can change the contrast of the image and darken calcifications.
“The computer will flag certain areas of interest that can then be shown to the radiologist and they can determine if it needs to be further examined,” she said. “By doing so, it really minimizes some of the things that could go wrong and minimizes anxiety from the patient.”
Smith said the overall feel of the mammography equipment is also more patient friendly and has been designed to minimize discomfort on every level.
“The machines used to be metal and felt cold, with sharp edges, and now they’ve changed to warmer materials with rounded edges and is much more comfortable,” she said. “It only takes about 15 minutes for the entire procedure.”
Smith recommended women begin having mammograms at age 40 and continue to yearly, unless a history of breast cancer runs in the family, which warrants those patients to begin at an earlier age.
In the next couple of years, Smith said the 3-D Breast Tomosynthesis Mammography may be available, which is similar in nature to a cat scan of a breast.
“It’s the newest machine to get approved by the FDA,” she said. “They’re always perfecting and advancing the machines.”