How Legislation Affects your Breast Health

On February 15th, the federal government passed legislation that requires all mammography providers to inform patients and physicians about their breast density after they undergo a mammogram and explain the importance of that information.  As a New York State resident, you will be pleased to know that alike legislation became law in 2013. In fact, we were the first state to require that women be informed if their mammogram demonstrates that their breast tissue is “dense.  These laws are critical to breast health because up to 50% of women have dense tissue of some degree

Most women may think of mammography as a one-scan-works best for all.  As a woman with dense breast tissue, I learned that’s not always the case. When I when first received the news that I had dense breasts, my initial reaction was fear. However, my radiologist explained that breast density is perfectly normal and does not necessitate that I will get cancer. She explained that both cancer and dense tissue appear white on a mammogram and cancer is more likely to be missed in women with dense breasts. She described my dense breast tissue as clouds in the sky and breast cancers as white planes in flight. And when a plane flies through wispy clouds, you can still see the plane in the air, but when flies through thick clouds, it can be nearly impossible to detect.  I was fortunate that my imaging provider Southtowns Radiology (full disclosure also my employer), offered the latest in breast imaging technology, particularly for women with breast density.

Simply put, not all mammography is created equal. Southtowns Radiology combines three of the latest technologies in breast imaging: VolparaDenisty, a computerized algorithm to measure breast density, Genius 3D Mammography the only FDA approved mammography system with proven superior dense breast performance and C-View, a software program that lessens radiation dosage up to 40 percent. Because of this technology my radiologist was able to see my breast tissue in greater detail and provide a more certain diagnosis.

Up until this recent action by the federal government, there was no consistency from state to state on what the laws require patients to be told about their breast density.  According to JoAnn Pushkin, Executive Director of DenseBreast-info.org “Implementation of this national law will help to address this disparity, as all imaging facilities that perform mammography screening will be required to provide at least the level of information required by the FDA’s new reporting requirement.”  Pushkin was instrumental in the passing of the 2013 NYS breast density law.

The federal law, like the NYS law, mandates that mammography reports and summaries received by patients and their providers include appropriate information about breast density. The information must include, at a minimum:

  • The effect of breast density in masking the presence of breast cancer on a mammogram
  • The qualitative assessment of breast density by the provider who interprets the mammogram
  • A reminder to patients that individuals with dense breast tissue should talk with their providers if they have any questions or concerns about their summary.

One thing is for certain, I am grateful to be a both a NYS resident and a patient of Southtowns Radiology both of whom are leaders in breast health!

 

 

 

 

 

Mammography Sensory Suites

The Lynn Women’s Health and Wellness Institute, in Boca Raton performed an interesting study on the use of the senses during a mammographic procedure.  Over the course of one year, as they implemented 3D tomosynthesis mammography, they gathered data on the use of sound and visual therapy along with aromatherapy and essential oils. The facility had a mammography room they dubbed as a Sensory Suite. Patients who were brought to this room enjoyed a scene and sounds of their choice on two large-screen televisions.  They could choose from a nature scene with a babbling brook, an ocean scene with the sound of crashing waves or a forest with the birds happily chirping. The study concluded with the following:

  • Patients were more relaxed during the procedure.
  • The CC view had a quarter inch to one-half inch more tissue than the previous year.
  • The patients reported a less painful mammogram that previously experienced.
  • The patients asked to be scheduled in the Sensory Suite for their next visit.

After seeing the results of this study, Southtowns Radiology decided to add similar items to our mammography suites in hopes for a similar response. Each room boasts comforting artwork in a nontraditional medical room setting. We diffuse essential oils and play soothing white noise, both known to calm people.  To date, we have found that these additions have helped to ease the anxiety of most patients.

At Southtowns Radiology, our highly trained technologists take pride in offering the best imaging along with the best possible experience for every patient they care for. Schedule your mammogram today. 

 

 

 

 

 

Southtowns Radiology Breast Cancer Survivor Series – Libby’s Story

“I was lucky that I was diagnosed so early.”

Six-year survivor Libby had always been practical when it came to managing her risk for breast cancer. Several of her family members (including aunts, a cousin and her sister) had been diagnosed, so she knew she needed to be vigilant.

In addition to regular screening mammograms, Libby also had a BRCA gene test performed to determine if she carried an inherited mutation that would further increase her risk. “I knew I fit the profile, so I wanted to be proactive,” stated Libby.

Although her genetic testing came back negative, those results proved to offer no protection. In 2010, her radiologist found an area of suspicion during a routine mammogram at Southtowns Radiology. “A friend actually performed my mammogram,” Libby recalled. “She was so sweet when she told me they needed more images, but I figured there was a problem. Thankfully, they caught it early so I didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy.”

After careful consideration, Libby chose the most radical treatment option: a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. “I had breast cancer. All I wanted to know was what to do so that I could move on,” she said. “I opted for a bilateral mastectomy, because it gave me a 99% chance of being cured.”

Unfortunately, Libby’s body rejected the implants that were part of her reconstruction – and they had to be removed. But while some would’ve been devastated, she remained extremely positive. “Reconstruction is a very personal choice,” Libby declared. “It’s up to each woman to decide what makes her feel best.”

Throughout her recovery, Libby stayed strong by becoming active volunteer, fundraiser and organizer for several organizations including the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. “I did it to take the focus off myself and put it someplace productive,” Libby stated.

Libby considers herself extremely fortunate to have been diagnosed so early, and she’s found a silver lining to becoming a cancer survivor. “At first, I didn’t really talk about my cancer – my co-workers didn’t even know why I took off work,” she reflects. “Once I got involved with my volunteer work, though, I started to become more comfortable talking about it. People started approaching me wanting to share their stories. In the process, I realized that I can be a real support for others – it’s sometimes hard for patients and survivors to open up to their families.

“Cancer has made me more eager to live, and I welcome new experiences,” she continued. “I kind of let more things roll off my back now – little things aren’t that important. What is important is being with my family and friends. They mean everything to me.”

When asked about the advice she’d give to others regarding breast cancer, Libby offered the following: “The minute a girl becomes a woman, she needs to talk to her family doctor and needs to be 100% responsible for her body,” Libby said. “I’d also tell people that just because you have a breast cancer gene, it’s not a death sentence. It’s knowledge you can use to be proactive.”

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Southtowns Radiology Breast Cancer Survivor Series – Lisa C.

Southtowns Radiology Breast Cancer Survivor Series – Lisa’s Story

“This is kind of weird.”

That’s what Lisa C. said to her husband, after finding a lump in her right breast while showering. She wasn’t overly alarmed; her last mammogram was clear, and she performed regular self-examinations.

But her intuition told her to go get it checked immediately.

And she’s so glad she did.

Just a few days later, Lisa was examined by her OB/GYN, who scheduled a mammogram and sonogram at Southtowns Radiology for the following day. Based on the findings, her doctor ordered a biopsy. “The procedure wasn’t painful at all,” said Lisa. “And at that point, we were all hoping the lump was just a cyst. I do have a history of breast cancer in my family, but I still didn’t think it could happen to me.”

At 3:50 on Friday, July 8th, the call came: Lisa had invasive ductal carcinoma, and she knew immediately that her life would never be the same. “I had just gotten home from work when I received my diagnosis, and I was in a mixed state of disbelief and terror,” she said. “A million questions flooded into my head. I thought, ‘How could this be happening to me? What have I done that was so bad that I deserve this? What is my son going to do without a mother?'”

After she shared the news with her husband and her initial panic subsided, Lisa knew she had to steel herself for an incredibly difficult journey. She reassured herself by recalling how her mom, aunt and cousin had survived breast cancer. “If they could do it, I knew that I could, too,” she thought. “For me, there was no ‘Option B’; I just couldn’t give up, because I had family depending on me.”

Lisa needed a second biopsy, to rule out the possibility of lymph node involvement. “It was pretty scary, but the staff at Southtowns took great care of me,” she stated. “They never let me walk out of there questioning; they were proactive with my care and did whatever was needed to make sure I had the information to feel confident with my diagnosis, prognosis and treatment regimen.”

Thankfully, she received good news that her cancer had not spread. Subsequent testing confirmed that she did not carry the breast cancer gene, which meant that she would not undergo a bilateral mastectomy. With that reassurance, she was prepared to begin her treatment: a lumpectomy with sentinel node removal, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

Lisa’s surgery was successful, and she’s just beginning her chemo regimen: four rounds of Adriamycin with Cytoxan, followed by 12 weekly Taxol infusions. All told, she’ll undergo five months of treatment.

When asked what advice she’d give to other women about breast cancer or screening, Lisa was adamant. “Be your own advocate,” she stated. “Check yourself in the shower regularly; lathering up really does make self-examination easier.

“Always listen to your body and mind,” she continued. “As a woman, you have the ability to know what’s going on with your body. If anything seems out of the ordinary, go for that extra mammogram or biopsy. I’m so glad that I went with my women’s intuition.”

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Do I Need A Referral to Schedule a Mammogram?

At Southtowns Radiology, our number-one priority is your health. We strive to offer the best imaging technology available and the education you need to make good decisions for your body. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve been answering our readers’ questions about breast health and mammograms. So far, we’ve talked about when to schedule a mammogram and whether you should worry about the radiation dose. Also, we learned how to prepare for your test and what to expect during your exam. Today, we tackle another question we’ve heard from many of our clients.

Q: Do I Need a Referral From My Doctor to Schedule a Mammogram?

Answer: Southtowns Radiology does require a referral before scheduling your mammogram. Referrals can be from a physician or mid-level healthcare provider, such as a nurse practitioner. While you might think this step sounds unnecessary, we believe there are excellent reasons this is the way to get you the best care possible.

·       Referrals Ensure You Receive the Right Test

Even though we’ve simply been using the word “mammogram” throughout this series, there are several different types of mammograms. For example, we offer both 2D and 3D mammograms. Though we believe that 3D breast imaging is almost always the better choice, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider when deciding which scans are right for you. Since they are more familiar with your personal and family history, they are better equipped to evaluate your individual needs.

·       Having Your Referral Information Helps Us Share your Results When Necessary

You should always keep your primary care provider in the loop regarding any tests you receive. Even when your images come back clean, it’s helpful for your doctor to have a detailed record on hand; but more importantly, they will need to know about any abnormal results so they can help you coordinate any follow-up testing and treatments that might be necessary.

·       A Referral Makes It Easier for Your Insurance to Cover the Expense

Even when following the recommended schedule for breast health screening, some of our clients have found that their insurance companies balk at reimbursing them for the cost of their test. A documented referral is proof that your tests were necessary, which protects you from having to pay out-of-pocket.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this educational series, but don’t stop here! You can never know too much about your health or your body’s needs. Please contact us with any and all of your health screening needs. As you know, we offer much more than just mammograms. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our three locations in the greater Buffalo, NY area.

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October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Life-saving screening for early breast cancer detection should be a top priority for all women. The majority of healthcare providers agree the key to saving thousands of lives every year is early detection of breast cancer through breast cancer screening.

Early Detection Is Critical

The best way to combat breast cancer is to have a comprehensive screening plan. Catching the disease in its infancy involves screening exams for women before they have symptoms. Early screening allows breast cancer to be detected sooner than it otherwise would have been noticed; before the disease causes symptoms such as noticeable lumps. Sadly, breast cancers that are diagnosed following the presence of symptoms tend to be larger and more extensive than those found at routine screening. Breast cancers found thanks to early screening typically turn out to be smaller and confined to breast tissue.

Main Factors

The size and distance cancer has spread are the two most critical factors when determining patient prognosis. And according to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent when localized breast cancer is found early.

Early Detection: How To

The American College of Radiolgy recommends the following breast cancer screenings:

Self-Exam

Self breast exams are recommended monthly start at the age 20.

Clinical Exam

Women between the ages of 20 and 39 should have a clinical breast exam, once every year to three years to detect possible signs of breast cancer. Women over the age of 40 should have a clinical exam done by a healthcare professional annually.

Mammogram

Baseline mammogram at age 35 and every year for women 40 years and older. Mammograms can detect breast cancer nearly two years before the presence of a physical lump. Women 30 years or older, who are at higher risk of a breast cancer diagnosis, are recommended to have mammograms annually.

No Family History of Breast Cancer: Do You Still Need a Mammogram?

Yes. Three out of every four women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis have no family history of the disease. Regular breast cancer screenings that include mammograms can help detect cancer early. Even if you have no family history of breast cancer, are in excellent health and have an ideal body weight, annual mammograms can save your life.

Mammograms in Western New York

Fitting a mammogram and other breast screenings into your busy schedule doesn’t need to be difficult. With locations in Hamburg and Orchard Park, the breast cancer detection specialists at Southtowns Radiology make it easy for you to get the life-saving screening you deserve. Contact them today to schedule your appointment.

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Should I Be Concerned About the Radiation Dose of a Mammogram?

Fall is here, and you know what that means: cold air, bright leaves and pink ribbons everywhere. That’s right; it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month! In honor of this amazing cause, we’re answering your questions about breast health in a special series on our blog. We already talked about when you should get a mammogram. Let’s see what our readers are asking today.

Q: How Much Radiation Will I Get From a Mammogram? Is It Dangerous?

Answer: With all the terrible chemicals we’re exposed to every day, limiting your exposure to anything dangerous is smart. Fortunately, the technology used for mammograms is very safe. A woman following the recommended schedule for mammograms won’t have to worry about dangerous levels of exposure.

Q: But, Isn’t All Radiation Bad Radiation?

Answer: Many people don’t realize this, but we expose ourselves to all sorts of natural radiation every day. Even the foods we eat and the plants around us expose us to radiation. What people are worried about is unnecessary exposure.

You’ll have to forgive me because I’m going to get a little sciencey. Don’t worry. It won’t take long. We measure radiation exposure with a unit called the gray. With mammograms, the doses are so tiny that we measure them in milligray. The word “milligray” means one-thousandth of a gray (kind of like how we measure most pills in milligrams). The FDA says that a safe radiation dose for mammograms is three milligray. We try to be as safe as possible at Southtowns Radiology. Our mammograms use the latest, safest technology. Our machines will expose you to a maximum of 1.45 milligray.

Okay, enough science talk. What does this actually mean for you? The amount of radiation you’ll receive during a yearly mammogram is very low. You would get about the same extra dose if you took a flight across the country. The difference is that a mammogram might save your life.

We hope this helps you set aside your concerns. If you have any more questions about our procedures or services, please let us know! While you’re at it, schedule an appointment with us. Our dedicated, experienced staff is waiting to hear from you.

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month Infographic

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All throughout the month, Southtowns Radiology will be sharing great information about the importance of early screening and detection.

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When Should I Get a Mammogram?

At Southtowns Radiology, we take your preventative healthcare seriously, which is why we’re so proud to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Not everyone realizes how serious an issue this is. Even worse, some don’t know what steps they can take to protect themselves. We want to help. We’ve asked some of our staff to answer some of the questions you’ve asked recently. Let’s get started!

Q: When Should I Get My First Mammogram?

Answer: Sometimes, doctors and their respective medical societies (ACS, ACOG, ACR) don’t agree on every issue. Recently, there have been conflicting reports in the media, making it very confusing for women to know when to start having mammograms. Our advice comes from recommendations of the American College of Radiology, who regulates and accredits mammography facilities. They advise that should have your first “baseline” mammogram when you are 35 years old.

Q: How Often Should I Get a Mammogram?

Answer: Our experts agree that every woman should have a mammogram every year, beginning at age 40. Some 250,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Sadly, 40,000 of those are expected to die. But it’s not all bad news. While regular mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer, it greatly improves the chance of finding it early. You’ve probably heard people talk about the stages of cancer, as in “She has Stage 3 breast cancer.” These stages (which technically are measured in roman numerals because doctors like to be fancy) refer to how far cancer has spread in your body. When breast cancer is caught early, before it has spread, the chance for a cure is almost 100 percent! That’s why we think it’s so important that women follow these guidelines.

Q: What If I Have a Family History of Breast Cancer? Should I Get Tested Sooner?

Answer: Sometimes. Women at high risk include those with a family history of cancer, those who have received radiation treatment before and those with certain genetic markers. If you think you might be high risk, talk to your doctor about developing a screening program that fits your needs. Typically, we will begin screening 10 years earlier than the age at diagnosis of a first degree relative (mother or sister). Additional screening, including MRI, is sometimes included for patients at higher risk.

We hope this helps you understand things a bit better. We’ll be answering your other questions about breast cancer all month. If you have any questions of your own, please contact us! Our experienced radiology staff is waiting to hear from you. Even better, schedule an appointment. Whether you’re in need of a mammogram or any other test, we’ve got you covered.

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