GREENFIELD — Kathy Locke knows the feeling.

The worry. The anxiety.

The technician saw something suspicious during Locke’s annual mammogram in 2015. The Greenfield woman needed to come back for additional testing.

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It turned out to be nothing — just folded skin. But Locke hasn’t forgotten the dread that overwhelmed her as she waited for answers.

This month, the James T. Anderson, M.D. Center for Women’s Health at Hancock Regional Hospital, 801 N. State St., will start offering 3-D mammography scans, a comfort to patients like Locke.

The technology increases breast cancer detection by more than 40 percent and decreases the chances a woman will be called back for further diagnostic testing, officials say.

The center is using Tomosynthesis Mammography — the latest technology in breast cancer screening that captures multiple images of the breast from several different angles. A computer then compiles those images to create a 3-D picture.

The reconstructed image enables radiologists to review each layer of tissue, similar to turning the pages of a book, said Debbie Muegge, lead technologist.

Being able to review single layers of tissue decreases the chances a tumor can hide behind overlapping tissue and be missed by cancer specialists, ultimately increasing detection, Muegge said.

The technology also decreases how often women have to return for follow-up diagnostic procedures often required when a doctor spots something concerning in the 2-D mammogram, Wood said.

For some women, that means they won’t need to go through additional evaluations — such as biopsies — which can be a burden emotionally and financially, officials say.

The device might have saved Locke from having to return for additional testing had the hospital had it on hand in 2015; she’s glad to know the worry that comes with waiting will be lessened for women like her.

Most importantly, however, the 3-D mammography will help doctors detect breast cancer sooner than the traditional scan, which could save more lives, said Lisa Wood, director of diagnostic imaging at Hancock Regional Hospital.

Studies estimate one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and annual screening beginning at age 40 is important in early diagnosis, Wood said.

The 3-D mammography offers exceptionally sharp images of the breast and is especially useful for women with dense tissue, Wood said.

It’s harder for radiologists to detect cancer in women who have dense breast tissue because the tissue looks similar to masses or tumors on a typical mammogram, according to the American Cancer Society.

Women with dense breast tissue have a slightly higher risk of getting breast cancer, making early detection even more important, the American Cancer Society reports.

When breast cancer is detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The new device was donated to the hospital by local business owner Todd Green and his wife, Erin. Last fall, the Todd & Erin Green foundation gave $100,000 to the Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation, which enabled officials to buy the new device to improve its mammography services, said Nancy Davis, director of the foundation.

Hospital officials hope the generous donation from the Greens will help save lives in the community.

“This makes a huge difference for our patients,” Davis said. “It wasn’t in our budget to be able to get this.”

Locke was one of the first patients to use the new mammogram this year as part of training radiologists and technicians went through to prepare for the device’s rollout.

The experience wasn’t much different than a traditional yearly exam, Locke said, except it took a few seconds longer.

Locke said she was surprised by the detail the 3-D scans were able to provide when compared with 2-D scans.

She plans to use the device every year, she said.

Some private insurance companies don’t yet cover the new mammogram — without insurance, the scan is less than $200 — but Locke said it’s the option she’d choose even without her healthcare footing the bill.

“If you’re going to detect your breast cancer early, that’s a price to pay, I’d think,” she said.

Though Hancock Regional Hospital’s imaging centers across the county offer traditional mammograms, the new technology is offered only at the Anderson center at the hospital, 801 N. State St.

Hospital officials hope to eventually equip all imaging centers with the 3-D mammogram technology, Wood said.

Inside

In today’s Daily Reporter, we salute cancer patients — both survivors and those still fighting — in our annual special section, Spirit to Survive. See AX

For more information

The James T. Anderson, M.D. Center for Women’s Health at Hancock Regional Hospital, 801 N. State St., will soon offer 3-D mammography to its patients.

The center is using a Tomosynthesis Mammography — the latest technology in breast cancer screening that collects multiple images of the breast from several different angles. A computer then uses those images to create a 3-D image.

For more information, call 317-468-6265.

Women Helping Women

The Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation will host its annual Women Helping Women fundraiser Wednesday. Funds raised at the event will aid uninsured and underinsured women in Hancock County in receiving a 3-D mammogram, technology that increases breast cancer detection by 41 percent.

Author photo
Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.