3D Imaging Enhances Confidence, Diagnostics

Dr. Daniel Gray exams a 3D mammogram at the Northern Radiology in Watertown.

BY: Norah machia

One of the newest and most advanced technologies used in detecting breast cancer, 3-D Mammography, has become part of a full-range breast health services offered at Northern Radiology Imaging, 1571 Washington St., Watertown.

   The 3-D Mammography takes images of multiple cross-sections of the breast, providing more precise and enhanced images of the tissue for radiologists to view on a computer screen. Traditional mammography machines take single images of the breast tissue, making it a particular challenge to detect abnormalities in women with dense breast tissue.

   “This technology improves the chances of catching breast cancer,” said Dr. Daniel Gray, vice president of Northern Radiology Imaging. “A suspicious nodule can blend in with dense tissue, but we can see it more clearly with 3-D Imaging.”

   The clearer pictures can also help in another way – by eliminating a woman’s anxiety over a suspicious lump. The newer mammogram technology allows radiologists to better rule out possible cancerous growths, without the patient needing additional testing.

   Mammography is an important tool in the early detection of breast cancer, because it can show changes in breast tissue up to two years before anything suspicious can be felt by a woman or her physician during a breast examination. The 3-D Mammography Imaging allows women to “be more confident about their test results,” particularly if they have mild to moderate dense breast tissue, Dr. Gray said.

  Similar to a CT scan, the 3-D Mammogram takes multiple images (cross-sections) of breast tissue – more than 60 – which a radiologist can “page through” on a computer screen. On the images generated by traditional mammography, “the tissue overlaps on the image, and it can be more obscure,” Dr. Gray noted.

   “This newer technology allows us to get rid of the overlap and detect things better,” he said. “Instead of four images, the radiologist can look at 61 different slices of each image.”

  “And the radiology dose is only minimally greater” than with the traditional 2-D machine, he added.

  The 3-D Mammography provides “a better service for all women, particularly those with dense breast tissue,” said Amanda Bisig, chief operating officer. “It’s like flipping through a book rather than just looking at the cover,” she added.

   The design of the machine offers a “more comfortable compression experience” for women, because once the breast is positioned for the imaging, there is no need to keep repositioning the patient in order to capture the multiple images, she said. The pad for the breast is also heated.

  Other screening is offered as part of the facility’s comprehensive breast care program. For example, if a woman with dense breast tissue scores a 20 percent or greater, lifetime risk of developing cancer on a specific health questionnaire, a supplemental MRI screening of the breast is recommended.

  If it’s determined a biopsy is needed, the procedure can be performed the same day or the next day at the Watertown office (with 24 to 48 hours waiting time for results). Breast ultra-sound services are also available.

  “We don’t want to have women travel outside the area for any of these services,” said Mrs. Bisig. “We can offer them all here under one roof.”

   If a woman discovers a lump in her breast, she can request an Accelerated Diagnostic Breast Evaluation, or an urgent diagnostic mammogram, which is typically scheduled within 24 hours after the woman receives a written prescription from her primary care provider or gynecologist.

  Northern Radiology Imaging also offers genetic screening for 12 different types of cancers (including breast, colon, pancreas, and prostate). The saliva test, combined with a family history, could help a patient determine if he or she has a genetic predisposition to developing a particular type of cancer. That information helps patients determine their need for regular types of cancer screening tests, Mrs. Bisig added.

  “It is part of developing personalized medicine,” which allows the patient to obtain important pertinent health information so he or she can “do everything possible now” to prevent the development of a particular type of cancer, such as having regular screening tests, she said.

   Northern Radiology Imaging has seven radiologists who have completed fellowships in the areas of neuroradiology, nuclear medicine, cross sectional imaging and interventional radiology. In addition to their own practice, they provide services at Samaritan Medical Center, Carthage Area Hospital and North Country Urgent Care.