By Marlene James, director, Imaging Services Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
It’s hard to meet anyone who hasn’t been affected by breast cancer in some way, or at least knows someone who has. The disease remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S.
Breast cancer is a particularly important issue for the African American community. According to a recent American Cancer Society report, the most common cancer diagnosis among African American women in the last two years was breast cancer, accounting for 25 percent of all new cases[i].
African American women have slightly lower incident rates of breast cancer than White women, but, sadly, are more likely to die from the disease. Reasons for this disparity include differences in access to and utilization of early detection and treatment and differences in tumor characteristics. Aggressive tumors are more common in African American women, making mammograms so important.
Screening with a mammogram, followed by treatment, has been proven to lower breast cancer mortality rates. Early detection is the best tool we have.
And yet, in recent years, mammography rates have plateaued and, among African American women, declined. In 2005, the proportion of African American women aged 40 and older who reported receiving a mammogram within the past two years was about 65 percent. In 2009, Only 50 percent of African American women reported having a mammogram.
According to the CDC, the national average for all women 50-74 self reporting mammograms within the last two years is 81%. In the state of Wisconsin , rates are below the national average.
At Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, we hope to change this by encouraging women to comply with guidelines for annual mammograms for women over the age of 40. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and an important time for women from all walks of life to keep talking about this issue.
Part of our commitment to women’s health is offering cutting edge imaging technology to the local community by providing digital mammography at all of our mammography centers. At some of the Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare sites including Franklin, St. Francis, Brown Deer and Metro Radiology, mammograms are performed with Senographe Essential, digital mammography technology developed right here in Milwaukee, by GE Healthcare.
Digital mammography is a technique that uses a computer instead of X-ray film, to record images of the breast. But what are the benefits of “going digital”?
Compared with traditional mammography, digital mammography provides superior images of breast tissue, which may help radiologists identify abnormalities more easily. Additionally, a digital mammogram allows for easier imaging of a wider variety of breast sizes and tissue density.
A shorter exam
When I talk with women coming into our imaging center, a common reason that they’ve delayed getting their mammograms is time. We’re so busy with work, our families and day to day life that even a few extra minutes count. Without having to process film, radiologists and technologists can now turn around exam results much more quickly. Traditional mammograms typically took 20-30 minutes in the past. Now, local women can come in, get a mammogram and be out in just 10-15 minutes.
With digital mammography, there is no need to process imaging film. This allows mammography technologists to remain with the patient for the duration of the exam to discuss the process and answer any questions, rather than leaving to go to another part of the center for a period of time to obtain film results.
Less environmental impact
No more film means fewer consumable materials are used, resulting in less waste.
Our imaging department has also been able to use extra space from rooms once used for processing film for other purposes including storage or for a private, comfortable room where radiologists can meet with women to discuss their results or any concerns they may have.
With the advances in imaging technology and the cutting edge in mammography available here to the local community, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare hopes to encourage more women to come in for their mammograms each year in an effort to better address breast cancer here in Milwaukee.
To learn more about Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare’s digital mammography services, please visit the following link: http://www.mywheaton.org/programs/womens_care/breast_care.asp or call (414) 456-3200 to schedule an appointment.
[i] American Cancer Society, “Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2009- 2010.” http://www.cancer.org/acs/group/content/@nho/documents/document/cffaa20092010pdf.pdf