October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
You can be vigilant
From Morgan Memorial Hospital
As Morgan County citizens don pink on Friday in honor of individuals who have faced a breast cancer diagnosis, local women can find comfort in knowing that screenings to aid in early detection are available locally at Morgan Memorial Hospital (MMH).
With digital equipment that utililizes computer-aided detection, Kaye Utley, Kim Sitzmann, and Michelle Gilreath perform approximately 1,000 mammograms at Morgan Memorial each year. The group has more than 49 years of combined experience and all three are registered with the American College of Radiology. MMH also offers breast ultrasound when further evaluation measures are needed.
“Our employees take pride in the services we are able to offer women locally and the patient-focused manner in which they are delivered,” said Megan Morris, Director of Development and Community Relations. “We are also very fortunate to have a hospital authority and community donor base that recognizes the importance of investing in quality medical equipment in order to provide for the healthcare needs of our local citizens.”
Early detection is key for improving the odds of beating a breast cancer diagnosis. Combined with improved treatment methods and increased awareness, early detection has resulted in a continuous nationwide decrease in death rates from breast cancer since about 1990. Even still, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends a clinical breast exam by a physician or nurse at least every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women in the 40s. In addition, beginning at age 40, women should have a mammogram done annually for life. Women with a family history of breast cancer are encouraged to begin annual mammograms when they are 10 years younger than the earliest age at which a family member was diagnosed.
Recognizing the anxiety that many women have regarding getting their annual mammogram, MMH strives to make the experience as pleasant as possible. “We don’t want the experience to be something that women dread,” said Utley, manager of the MMH Radiology Department. “The soothing nature of the mammography room décor, quick scheduling process, detailed explanations we provide, and rapid procedure time made possible by digital technology are just a few of the areas that patients have complimented us on in the recent past.”
Patients desiring to have their mammogram done at MMH must have a physician’s order and should call 706-752-2207 Monday through Friday to schedule an appointment. Orders are accepted from any physician, not just those located in Madison. Appointments can usually be scheduled within a week and wait time is minimal.
With the current digital technology offered at MMH, the entire screening mammography process typically only takes about 30 minutes. “We have several patients who choose to come in on their lunch break because the process is so quick,” said Morris.
Routine “screening” mammograms are used to check for breast cancer in women who have shown no signs or symptoms of the disease. MMH offers these daily, Monday through Friday, and they are read by a radiologist that same day unless the staff is waiting on patient films from another facility.
“To aid in detecting changes in breast tissue, part of the mammogram reading process includes comparing the current film to any films that have been taken in the past,” said Utley. “When a patient’s previous mammograms have been done elsewhere, we will work with the patient and facilities that took the previous images to ensure that we have as much information for comparison as possible.”
“Diagnostic” mammograms are used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of the disease has been found. They can also be used to evaluate changes revealed during a screening mammogram or to view breast tissue when special circumstances make it difficult to obtain a precise image. MMH conducts diagnostic mammograms on Tuesdays only. They can take a longer period of time because the patient waits while the radiologist reads the mammogram to ensure that all necessary views have been obtained.
After increasing for more than two decades, female breast cancer incidence rates began decreasing in 2000. The most significant annual decrease, seven percent, resulted between 2002 and 2003. This is thought to be due to the decline in use of hormone therapy after menopause when a study by the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 linked the use of hormone therapy to an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
Nationwide the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012 approximately 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. Currently, there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors (women still being treated and those who have completed treatment) in the United States.
Printed in the October 25, 2012 edition