Joseph P. Russo, M.D., Section Chief of Women’s Imaging at St. Luke's University Health Network
In the late 1980s, mammography proved to be an effective breast cancer screening tool, and with this, we saw a rapid increase in its use and implementation across the United States. In 1987, 29 percent of women above 40 years of age reported having a mammogram in the last two years. By 2000, that number jumped to 70 percent.
Despite its effectiveness, many women avoid scheduling their annual mammograms because of fear and anxiety from the potential result and exam discomfort. Yet, the choice to not get a mammogram can delay a breast cancer diagnosis and impact the long-term prognosis, as finding breast cancer early reduces a woman’s risk of dying from the disease by 25-30 percent or more. To address this, we provide an individualized breast screening program for every patient receiving a mammogram.
Recent advances in breast imaging technology have put the patient experience front and center, and addressing patients’ potential fear and anxiety is the driving force behind our women’s imaging program at St. Luke’s. Our regional breast centers provide same day biopsy scheduling for patients as well as same or next day diagnostic imaging.
"Through patient-centric technology, coupled with a personalized approach, we can encourage women to adhere to their annual mammograms so that together, we can tackle breast cancer"
We use technology like the Senographe Pristina mammography system from GE Healthcare, which offers the industry’s first patient-assisted compression remote control device, called Dueta.
Consider this. If you were to pinch yourself, you could probably squeeze harder than if someone else were to pinch you. The same concept rings true here. And in fact, when we give some control to patients, we are finding that they do in fact compress more, which could give us a better image of the breast – and a better chance to catch anything concerning early. Patients appreciate the opportunity to participate in their mammogram and control the amount of additional compression that is used after the technologist has established the baseline compression.
Additionally, an individualized multimodality approach is critical. For women with dense breast tissue, additional screening tools such as automated breast ultrasound can be excellent tools in addition to mammography.
It is also imperative to consider a patient’s entire story - age, breast density, breast size, medical history, risk factors, and personal preference – to improve screening outcomes. To that end, we provide a free lifetime risk assessment with every mammogram.
We know that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to breast health. By tailoring our approach to each patient and her unique needs, we can improve the experience and ultimately offer a better-quality outcome. And by following IT standards and with dedicated networks, we can provide our patients with personalized imaging options and offer our radiologists the right exams and information to make an accurate diagnosis quickly.
Our hope is that through patient-centric technology, coupled with a personalized approach, we can encourage women to adhere to their annual mammograms so that together, we can tackle breast cancer.