Community Healthcare takes mammography to a more detailed level with 3-D, PEM and ultrasound

Dr. Janice Zunich, medical geneticist in the Women's Diagnostic Center of Community Hospital, talks about various advancements in cancer detection and treatment at the hospital's Lights of Life tree lighting ceremony in 2013.

Times file photo

Using some of the most advanced diagnostic technologies available to help in the fight against women's reproductive cancers, Community Healthcare System can identify cancers in their earliest stages when the chances for successful treatment are greatest.

“One of the most current technologies that we’re offering is breast tomosynthesis or 3-D mammography, which is capable of identifying very small cancers at very early stages,” says Suzanne Ruiz, a registered nurse, nurse practitioner and supervisor of the Women’s Diagnostic Center of Community Healthcare System. “It’s one of the latest and greatest mammographies.”

Using high-powered computing capable of converting digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers, tomosynthesis builds a three-dimensional mammogram that is easier to read. Traditional mammograms show only a flat image of complex breast tissue, while 3-D mammograms allow radiologists to view breast tissue one millimeter at a time, making fine details much more visible.

Just like a conventional mammogram, a 3-D mammogram is conducted by a technologist who positions a woman’s breast on the machine and takes images from several angles. The procedure time is approximately the same as well.

Tomosynthesis also reduces the need for follow-up mammograms by 40 percent, and cuts the amount of radiation exposure. The very low X-ray energy used in 3-D mammography is below the exposure guidelines of the American College of Radiology.

Recent clinical studies have concluded that 3-D mammography can detect 41 percent more invasive cancers at an early stage than the conventional 2-D mammography.

“Here at Community Healthcare System, we’re also taking part in EA1141, a national clinical trial for women with dense breasts,” Ruiz says of the trial to determine how well abbreviated breast MRI and digital tomosynthesis mammography work in detecting cancer in women with less fatty tissue in their breasts. Dense breasts also have more gland and supportive tissue surrounding the mammary gland, all of which can make detecting cancers more difficult.

“It’s an exciting trial,” says Ruiz, a certified breast navigator, “and the information gathered from the first trial has been very informative.”

Dr. Janice Zunich, a geneticist and former director of the Genetics Center at Indiana University Northwest, is also part of Community Healthcare System’s reproductive cancer team.

Community Healthcare System offers the area’s only advanced positron emission mammography, a high-resolution scan capable of showing the location as well as the metabolic phase of a breast mass. This lets the physician view abnormalities as tiny as a grain of rice and differentiate between non-cancerous and cancerous masses.

Accredited staff also can provide early detection in such areas as stereotactic breast biopsy, breast ultrasound and ultrasound-guided breast biopsy.

“We offer a lot of options for early diagnosis, which is an essential part of successfully treating reproductive cancers," Ruiz says.

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