The technology, known as tomosynthesis, uses precise, 3-D digital imaging to create a complete reconstruction of the breast, which gives radiologists the ability to identify abnormalities that are more difficult to spot with traditional 2-D mammography screening. Evergreen is the only comprehensive breast center in the Seattle area to offer this state-of-the-art, breakthrough screening and diagnosis technology.
“The introduction of tomosynthesis helps us stay at the forefront of important technological advances in breast-health screening and diagnostic tools,” says Dr. Kara Carlson, medical director of the Evergreen Breast Center. “This helps us deliver on our commitment to achieving positive outcomes through early detection.”
The new technology was funded through the 10th annual Evergreen Healthcare Foundation Gala in April 2011 and cost approximately $750,000.
“It was purchased solely with donated funds,” notes Rosemary Fisher, manager of the Evergreen Breast Center. “We are very fortunate to have such generous support from the community and we are very grateful to our donors.”
Tomosynthesis has been around since 2008, but it didn’t receive FDA approval until last February. Evergreen has been eying the technology for some time, according to Dr. Carlson.
“Though digital (2-D) mammography is effective,” she says, “we wanted to be able to do an even better job with detection.
The earlier we can detect the cancer, the better chances the patient has of survival.” Tomosynthesis benefits all screening and diagnostic mammography patients, but it is especially valuable for women receiving a baseline or first time screening, women who are 40 to 60 years old, those who have dense breast tissue and women with a personal history of breast cancer.
“This technology increases cancer detection by 10 to 15 percent and decreases recall rates by 25 to 40 percent,” explains Dr. Carlson. “In the past month that we have been using the technology here at Evergreen, the recall rate has dropped by 40 percent. Not having to make a return visit reduces a woman’s stress and anxiety, and it definitely saves time.”
Thus far, the Center has screened close to 1,500 patients with tomosynthesis. Dr. Carlson comments on its ease of use, adding, “It involves no extra work and no extra positioning, but it does take the radiologist longer to read.”
She adds, “There’s a definite learning curve for radiologists with this technology and certification is necessary. We have five radiologists at the Center and three out of the five are certified, with the other two completing their certification in the next few weeks.”
The Center plans to replace more machines with the new technology in the coming year.
Its goal is to expand the technology in order to be able to offer it to more women.
Currently, the radiologists are triaging patients in regards to who gets to use it,” comments Dr. Carlson. “But, in the future, we want to be able to make tomosynthesis available to all women.” She notes, however, that all patients can request a tomosynthesis screening appointment at the Center.
On a side note, Evergreen now also provides a softer and warmer mammography experience thanks to the MammoPad, an ergonomic cushion that leads to 50 percent less discomfort for most patients.
The accessory is used on all mammography machines at the Center.
“We are proud to continue Evergreen’s tradition of innovative, advanced breast cancer care through this remarkable technology,” says Evergreen Hospital CEO Robert Malte. “Our sincerest thanks go out to all the generous donors to the Evergreen Healthcare Foundation for their benevolence and support in helping to bring tomosynthesis to Evergreen and our surrounding community.”