St. Rita’s health focus: The facts about mammography


By Dr. Nicole A. Nelson - Guest Column

Let’s start with the facts. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.

Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the United States by nearly 40 percent since 1990. This is when screening mammography became routinely utilized. Since 2004, the incidence of breast cancer has remained stable. Most of the women diagnosed with breast cancer (3 out of 4) have no family history of the disease and are not considered high risk. Let me restate that last fact: Most of the women diagnosed with breast cancer do NOT have a family history of breast cancer.

While most breast cancers are diagnosed are in women over 60 years old, of the breast cancers diagnosed, 1 in 6 of those occur in women under the age of 45.

I recommend beginning yearly screening mammography at age 40 and continuing every year. According to the American Cancer Society, less than half of women age 40-44 have received a mammogram in past two years.

There have been recent exciting new technologies to help us diagnose breast cancer even earlier. 3D mammography uses a series of low radiation dose images at different angles. This gives us 50 images of a breast compared to one image using 2D imaging. As you can imagine, this enables us to see cancers earlier. 3D mammography has over 40 percent more invasive cancer detection compared to 2D mammography. This is accomplished using computer technology. With 3D mammography, we can see through breast tissues better and it uses a lower radiation dose than standard mammography. Also, because we can see through tissues better, fewer patients are called back for additional testing.

3D mammography has had a great impact on our own area, both in Lima and our surrounding communities. We recently assessed our own statistics since implementing 3D mammography at the Women’s Wellness Center at St. Rita’s. This technology is having a direct impact on the individuals we serve. While still diagnosing the same number of cancers over the past year, in patients who have chosen 3D mammography, fewer patients have needed biopsies. Fewer patients have had to return for additional imaging. This saves cost to our patients and our community. The first cost I refer to is financial. They do not have to pay for additional testing or unneeded biopsies. The second cost is psychological. It is stressful for patients who are called to return for additional testing. They have to take off work and rearrange schedules that are already too busy. Saving this psychological cost means peace of mind.

We are proud that the Putnam County Ambulatory Care Center now offers 3D mammography for individuals seeking care there. I cannot express enough thanks to those in the community who financially supported this endeavor.

Unfortunately, when breast cancer is diagnosed, it affects the patient, the patient’s family and the people around them. It impacts children and grandchildren. We don’t want to miss games or Sunday dinners. It impacts spouses, as they assume responsibilities that the patient normally handled. It impacts our friends as they too are anxious for us, want to help, and extend themselves to help. It is difficult for anyone who cares about that individual. When breast cancer takes someone we love, the gap left behind cannot be filled. An individual life impacts so many others, in many ways that even the individual isn’t aware.

I feel passionate about our work in helping women in this community. Please share this passion with me. Ask a friend or a loved one: “Have you had your mammogram this year?” Encourage one woman today to get a mammogram. We all can make a difference in people’s lives.

By Dr. Nicole A. Nelson

Guest Column

To schedule a mammogram, please call our Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Women’s Wellness Center at 419-226-9056.

To schedule a mammogram, please call our Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Women’s Wellness Center at 419-226-9056.

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