(319) 472-6200

Vinton, Iowa) — Virginia Gay Hospital has been awarded a three-year term of accreditation in mammography as the result of a recent review by the American College of Radiology (ACR). Mammography is a specific type of imaging test that uses a low-dose X-ray system to examine breasts. A mammography exam, called a mammogram, is used to aid in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women.

The ACR gold seal of accreditation represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety. It is awarded only to facilities meeting ACR Practice Parameters and Technical Standards after a peer-review evaluation by board-certified physicians and medical physicists who are experts in the field. Categories assessed include image quality, personnel qualifications, adequacy of facility equipment, quality control procedures, and quality assurance programs. The ACR Committee on Accreditation reviews findings and subsequently provides the practice with a comprehensive report offering continuous practice improvement.

The ACR, founded in 1924, is a professional medical society dedicated to serving patients and society by empowering radiology professionals to advance the practice, science, and professions of radiological care. The College serves more than 37,000 diagnostic/interventional radiologists, radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine physicians, and medical physicists with programs focusing on the practice of medical imaging and radiation oncology and the delivery of comprehensive health care services.

The convenience of 3D mammography became available at Virginia Gay Hospital in 2018. It was added thanks to the teamwork between Virginia Gay’s Imaging Department and the Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation. Donations received through the Foundation’s annual Tree of Lights campaign helped to purchase the equipment and software. 

The Virginia Gay Hospital imaging staff has voluntarily gone through a rigorous review process to ensure that its mammography testing meets nationally-accepted standards of care. Patients who choose VGH are assured that mammograms are being done at a facility that has met the highest level of imaging quality and radiation safety.

A 3D mammogram 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, VGH Imaging Services Coordinator, explains why access to 3D mammography is important. She states, “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 the detection of invasive cancers is especially significant. 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. “A way to understand it is to imagine how much more detail is available when a radiologist can examine thousands of 1 millimeter thick images instead of just one image. It takes the radiologist longer to read, but it’s a much more thorough scan.”

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 hospital scheduling at 319-472-6270 for an appointment. 3D mammogram appointments are scheduled Mondays and Tuesdays, 9 AM to 3 PM, and Fridays, noon to 3 PM.

For those who can’t afford 3D mammograms, there is the Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation’s Gifts of Hope program. It will provide free mammograms and diagnostic services to Benton County residents who need financial assistance. Funds from the program help pay for fees like clinic visits and co-pays along with the costs associated with diagnostics like mammograms, pap tests, pelvic exams and the analysis of those tests needed to help determine the next steps in treatment. The fund assists those who have no insurance; have a health insurance policy that does not pay for these services; and those who are unable to pay deductible or co-insurance amounts. Those in need are not required to complete an application. Those patients are encouraged to mention the program to their Virginia Gay Family Medical Clinics provider who will make the necessary arrangements for them.

To learn more about mammography at Virginia Gay Hospital, please visit www.myvgh.org. If you would like to learn more about the Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation or the Gifts of Hope program, you can do so through the Foundation’s website at www.myvghfoundation.org.

Have you scheduled your mammogram yet? Abby Berry (mammographer at Virginia Gay Hospital) shows the “swag” available to those who schedule their mammograms during the month of October.  The free gift includes a Virginia Gay Hospital cup, lip balm and a certificate for a free coffee at John’s Qwik Stop.