St. Vincent’s unveils 3-D mammography unit

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Cutting the ribbon on the latest in women’s breast imaging are, from left, (back row) technologist Debra Samatulski, CEO Susan L. Davis, Radiology Director Rachel Giliotti, WIC Medical Director Dr. Kelly Harkins, technologist Anny Murray, Radiology Manager LaTishia Greene, (front row) benefactor Elizabeth Pfriem, technoloigst Susan Gawitt and WIC Manager Lorrie Thanas.

St. Vincent’s Medical Center recently cut the ribbon on its  new three-dimensional breast tomosynthesis unit, a new technology recently FDA-approved and used to detect breast cancer. The new unit, Hologic’s Selenia Dimensions, is housed within St. Vincent’s Swim Women’s Imaging Center.

Benefactor Elizabeth Pfriem, who made possible the purchase of the new technology, was joined by St. Vincent’s Health Services Chief Executive Officer Susan L. Davis, Women’s Imaging Center Medical Director Dr. Kelly Harkins, Radiology Director Rachel Giliotti and staff members in cutting  the ribbon.

“We are so grateful to our benefactor Elizabeth Pfriem for once again stepping up to help improve the health of the community through the purchase of this  state-of-the-art tomosynthesis technology,” Davis said. “Early detection of breast cancer is key  to good outcomes and survival, and this new unit will be a boon to women throughout the area as it pinpoints small tumors that might not be seen in certain women on a regular mammogram.”

Breast tomosynthesis technology images the breast digitally at various depths to obtain several thin slices of each breast. This allows the radiologist to find more breast cancers that may have been missed on standard breast imaging due to overlapping breast tissue. Breast tomosynthesis allows the radiologist to get a clearer picture with the ability to examine the breast tissue one layer at a time.

“While digital mammography is still one of the most advanced technologies available today, it is still only a two- dimensional picture which can make it difficult to pick up small  abnormalities that may be obscured by overlapping breast tissue,” Harkins said. “This is especially helpful in the patients that have dense breast tissue.”

In addition to improved cancer detection, breast tomosynthesis decreases the number of patients that need to return for additional images after their screening mammogram.

“Most of the patients that return for additional images after a screening mammogram are due to the inability to see the breast tissue clearly on the 2-D images,” Harkins said. “This will in turn reduce patient anxiety.

“Breast tomosynthesis is a real breakthrough in breast imaging, and is now considered best practice in the field of mammography,” Harkins added.  “Multiple recent studies all found a higher cancer detection rate with tomosynthesis compared to standard 2 D digital mammography.”

According to Harkins, breast tomosynthesis does not eliminate the need for ultrasound technology in women with dense breasts. Breast ultrasound is an additional test done in conjunction with a woman’s annual screening mammography. Ultrasound, which is different than an X-ray, is used  to evaluate the breast tissue for masses and cysts, whereas digital mammography evaluates for areas of distortion and calcifications and changes from year to year.

“Utilizing these screening tools together, we have the best chance to find breast cancer at its earliest, most curable stage,” Harkins said.

For more information, visit stvincents.org. To schedule a mammography, call 203-576-5500.

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