The county’s only 3D mammogram machine is celebrating its one year anniversary at Medical Plaza 400 this year.
Medical Plaza 400, the Northeast Georgia Health System hospital presence in Dawson County, began offering 3D mammograms last year and has already seen over 80 percent of its imaging patients choose 3D mammograms over the traditional 2D screening.
“They love it,” said Kourtney Farrow, Women’s Imaging Coordinator. “Even though we’re compressing the same, we’re still doing the same amount of compression we did before, patients just seem to think it doesn’t hurt as bad. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback here.”
A mammogram is an x-ray of breast tissue that is used in screening and diagnosis of breast cancer. The new 3D mammogram machine is different from a traditional 2D mammogram because it allows for 3D images of breast tissue to be viewed 1mm at a time by radiologists, said Farrow.
“Cancers could be hiding in dense tissue and they’re able to see that on a slice that they wouldn’t be able to see on the 2D,” Farrow said. “Sometimes you can have tissue that overlap and it makes it look like there’s a cancer on the 2D so you get that callback whereas on the 3D they can see it’s not a cancer, it’s just overlapping tissue.”
Farrow said that studies have shown 3D mammography can reduce callbacks, also called a second look, by up to 40 percent and is better at detecting cancers up to 41 percent sooner than a traditional 2D mammogram.
According to Farrow, mammograms are the number one modality in detecting breast cancer and that the American College of Radiology recommends women have an annual mammogram after they turn 40.
“Having the annual mammogram is really important,” Farrow said. “As a mammographer you wouldn’t believe what we find from one year and not being there and two years how much something has grown into a cancer whereas if you came annually you might could’ve caught it sooner before it had spread to lymph nodes.”
Most insurance companies – about 95 percent of payers – cover 3D mammograms, and Farrow says there is no reason to not have one, especially when it’s covered by insurance.
But having a mammogram isn’t the only thing a woman can do to stay vigilant of her health. Women’s health is about looking at the big picture, Farrow said, which includes self-breast examinations that can be done at home, clinical breast exams carried out by your primary care physician and your annual mammogram.
“A lot of ladies don’t do their self-breast exams so the only time that they know they have a lump is if they go to their doctor and get a clinical breast exam,” Farrow said. “A lump sometimes can be an indication of cancer so that’s why (self-breast exams) are important, especially when you’re younger.”
The easiest way to do a self-breast exam is in the shower while you have soap on your hands so that they are a little slippery, Farrow said.
“Normally you would take two or three fingers and you would start kind of under your arm and you just work your fingers in a circular motion and you just cover your entire breast until you get to the nipple,” Farrow said. “You’re wanting to find things that are just not your normal.”
Abnormalities could be mobile or hard lumps that you have never noticed before. If you have found something out of the ordinary, contact your primary care physician or family doctor who can perform a clinical breast exam and fill out an order form for a mammogram.
For your annual exam, you can schedule an appointment by calling (706) 216-3238 or by scheduling online at www.nghs.com/mychart-info.