(319) 472-6200

Mammography in 3D has come to Virginia Gay Hospital because of teamwork between Virginia Gay’s Imaging Department, the Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation, and the Gifts of Hope Program. The imaging department focused on incorporating the new technology and software. The Foundation’s annual Tree of Lights campaign donated funds to purchase the equipment needed by the Imaging Department. The Gifts of Hope program, funded primarily through the Party In Pink 5K walk/run, is offering to pay the difference in cost between standard and 3D mammography for any patient choosing 3D mammography at Virginia Gay. Patients can get the most advanced screening available with the convenience of staying in town.

“Our newest physician assistant Trevor Nelson mentioned that one reason he chose to join us was the close relationship between Virginia Gay Hospital and the community,” says Mike Riege, Virginia Gay Hospital administrator. “He experienced the relationship firsthand when he spent a month here as a student. Our ability to add 3D Mammography is just another example of how the community works closely with our professional staff to provide the latest and most beneficial technology for patients.”

3D mammography requires only a few seconds more than standard mammography. The testing procedure is identical, except for the slight arc the imaging unit makes to gather the image. The powerful software then creates images of the breast tissue in millimeter-thick increments. The ability to view small segments of tissue and the ability to rotate 3D images allow radiologists to take a more accurate look inside the body.

Monica Stark, Director of the Imaging Department at Virginia Gay, explains why it’s important that have access to 3D mammography, saying, “A study involving more than 12,000 women showed a decrease in false positives by 15% and an increase in the detection of invasive cancers of 40%. False-positive results are when a radiologist sees an abnormality that could be cancerous, but other diagnostic tests like ultrasound or biopsy show that cancer isn’t present. It causes worry and additional expense, so reducing them is important. The 40% increase in detection of invasive cancers is especially important. Invasive breast cancers start in the milk duct or milk glands, and can spread through blood or lymph systems to other parts of the body.”

“I wish we were able to show how a 3D mammogram is different, but 3D mammography images look the same as the 2D images unless, like a radiologist, you have the software to show them,” says Monica. “But a way to understand it is to imagine how much more detail there is when the radiologist can examine thousands of 1 millimeter thick images instead of seeing just one image. It takes the radiologist longer to read, but it’s a much more thorough scan.”

The technology is especially useful for women with dense breast tissue because 2D mammograms of dense breasts are more difficult for the radiologist to interpret, and because cancer occurs more often in dense breasts. The determination of breast tissue density is determined after examining a mammogram, and approximately 50% of women have dense breast tissue.

Two organizations with information about breast tissue density can be found on the web at http://www.densebreast-info.org/ and http://www.iowabreastdensity.com/ .

Talk with your Virginia Gay Family Medical Clinic healthcare provider about your risk of breast cancer and recommendations on mammography based on your age and health history. Your provider can provide you with an order for the test. Once you have an order, call the imaging department at 472-6288 or scheduling at 319-472-6270 for an appointment. 3D mammograms are currently being scheduled for Mondays and Tuesdays, 9 AM to 3 PM, and on Fridays, noon to 3 PM.

Robin Martin, Director of the Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation, believes the 3D mammography program demonstrates how charitable giving through the Foundation has a direct and positive impact on patients. “Not only was giving to the Foundation essential for getting the equipment and software,” explains Robin, “but through the Gifts of Hope Program the community has also eliminated the additional cost of having the more advanced screening.”

If you would like to contribute to the Virginia Gay Health Care Foundation, you can do so through the Foundation’s website at www.myvghfoundation.org, or by mailing a check to Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation, 509 North 9th Avenue, Vinton, IA, 52349.

Abby Berry (mammographer at Virginia Gay Hospital) reminds patients that a mammogram can find lumps in the breast long before they are found any other way and routine mammograms only take minutes.