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Keeping abreast of your health

Tracey Mann, director of radiology at CHI St. Alexius Health demonstrates the newly aquired 3D Mammogram equipment used in breast exams. Photo submission.1 / 2
Tracey Mann, director of radiology at CHI, explains why early detection is key with breast cancer, as it's the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women today. Photo submission.2 / 2

CHI St. Alexius Health in Dickinson is the newest hospital in North Dakota to offer the state-of-the-art technology slowly making its way into clinics nationwide — 3D mammography.

"It's super exciting," Tracey Mann, director of radiology at CHI, said. "It's a great thing for our patients and the surrounding community to be able to come to Dickinson and have their 3D mammograms performed here on-site, without having to make the long drive to Bismarck."

A moderately recent imaging platform, the Siemens Mammomat Revelation, scans the breast in millions of individual sectionals, giving radiologists an improved assessment of potential distortions, masses or growths. The new machine provides CHI with insight in three dimensions instead of producing a single image, surpassing the traditional equipment one millimeter at a time.

Considering the prevalence of breast cancer, a disease which affects one-in-eight women, the Siemens Mammomat Revelation is a vital tool now available on the Western Edge for screenings.

"Traditional mammography is a two-dimensional picture, much like an x-ray, and wasn't able to see those deep underlying tissues, making it look like something was hiding in there that wasn't," Mann explained. "The new system is more akin to a CT scan, providing medical staff with information for screening and diagnosis which wasn't previously available."

Mann has trained and worked with 3D mammography for some time, despite its relative novelty in many hospitals nationwide. She addressed the issue of false alarms found in traditional 2D screenings by explaining how traditional imaging required the tissue of the breast to be compressed in order to produce the image, and the older systems couldn't penetrate deep into larger and denser breasts resulting in distortions and false alarms.

"It's like a loaf of bread," she began. "You can either take an entire picture of the loaf, or pictures of each slice when trying to locate anomalies."

A Yale School of Medicine study from 2015 found that 3D mammograms reduced the rate of false alarms by as much as 40 percent with the "sliced approach."

"False positives create a host of issues for patients, including the need for additional follow-ups and additional radiation," Mann explained. "The benefit of additional screenings always outweighs the risk. However, if you don't have to get that additional radiation it's better."

According to the American Cancer Society, false positives in patients require additional diagnostic exams, increasing physical strain and financial costs associated with the annual check-up—an issue that is in large part resolved with 3D scanning.

"It's very taxing on the emotional psyche of the patients who are stressing over something that may be there when it was nothing," Mann said, speaking on the issue of false positives with 2D mammograms. "The biggest take away is that patients can be assured that there isn't anything hiding there with the new 3D mammograms."

The CHI St. Alexius Health website hosts detailed information discussing advances in mammograms, the benefits of the new system in terms of comfort and accuracy, as well as frequently asked questions about breast cancer screening.

The American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging encourages women to undergo annual mammograms beginning at age 40.

"Preventative care and routine care ensure the longevity of life, but if you wait until you have a lump, generally that cancer has spread elsewhere." Mann said. "If you do the yearly mammograms we can catch cancer at 3 millimeters before it becomes so large that it requires more invasive and drastic measures to resolve such as chemo and radiation."

One of the leading myths with breast cancer, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, is that it is largely a hereditary issue. Mann quickly pointed out studies that are disproving that myth, showing only seven percent of breast cancers are hereditary.

"The two largest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older," she said.

Early detection is key as breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and the second leading cause of cancer-related death today, according to the American Cancer Society.

For more information about breast cancer or mammograms contact Women's Way by calling 1-800-44 WOMEN or visit the Women's Way website at