A new screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection will soon be available in Grass Valley. Insight Imaging, a clinic well known for its low-cost imaging services, will be offering 3D mammography by mid-December, said medical director and radiologist Melisa Agness.
The new technology, also known as 3D tomosynthesis, has been found to provide a more accurate assessment when it comes to breast cancer detection and has consistently found some cancers missed by conventional 2D mammography alone. A 2013 study by the National Institutes of Health detected 5.3 cancers per 1,000 screens when using 2D only and 8.1 per 1,000 for integrated 2D and 3D screenings.
The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 5 that 3D mammography, pioneered by the Hologic Inc., “was named the ‘Hottest Clinical Procedure in 2013’ by AuntMinnie.com, the leading worldwide radiology web content provider.” In addition, it garnered the highest rating of the year’s 140 imaging products.
The technology is especially effective when screening women with dense breast tissue, said Agness, and decreases the chance a patient will have to return to the office for a “second look.”
In the past, patients have had to travel to Sacramento for 3D mammograms, as the technology has not been available in Nevada County, Auburn or the Yuba City region.
With 3D technology, breast tissue is examined in one millimeter slices, giving the radiologist a more confident assessment, studies show. In conventional digital mammography, a single flat image can sometimes prevent an accurate view of overlapping breast tissue.
“This technology is a huge investment,” said Agness. “But it will help a lot of women and do a lot of good. We serve a cross-section of women in Nevada County, but I want to get the word out that — in addition to traditional mammograms — 3D mammography will also be offered at low cost for those who qualify. Every woman counts and we are filling a need in this community. No one should be denied a screening due to lack of funds.”
With the 3D technology, Agness said fewer additional images are needed during screenings, and, although more thorough, radiation levels are roughly the same as with traditional mammograms. 3D mammography complements standard 2D mammography and is performed at the same time with the same system. There is no additional compression required, although it may take just a few more seconds for each view, she said.
Coincidentally, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is scheduled to offer the same technology come December. But as Agness sees it, the more women accurately screened in Nevada County, the better. Known for sitting down one-on-one with her patients to assess results, Agness finds tremendous rewards from seeing a woman finally get screened after years of worrying.
“Some carry this worry for years — maybe their mother had breast cancer — and they don’t get screened because they can’t afford it,” she said. “I love sharing my knowledge as a physician, and there is a real hunger for knowledge out there. I love seeing the joy that women have when they learn their results and the anxiety goes away.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.