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October 16, 2007 > Breast Cancer Diagnosis: New Technologies Supplement Mammography

Breast Cancer Diagnosis: New Technologies Supplement Mammography

Learn about the importance of breast health checks at upcoming seminar

Mammography, a low-radiation X-ray of the breast, has been around for decades. It has saved the lives of countless women by providing doctors with the means of detecting breast cancer in the early stages, when it can be effectively treated. And today, newer imaging technologies - such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - are available as additional screening tools for breast cancer.

"Mammography is still the primary diagnostic tool for diagnosing breast cancer," says Washington Hospital Women's Center Coordinator Kathy Hesser, RN. "The accuracy of today's mammograms is very high, and the digital mammography equipment at the Women's Center provides a much clearer picture of the breast than older analog mammography did."

To help women learn more about breast cancer screening alternatives, Hesser and Dr. William Dugoni, medical director of Washington Hospital's Women's Center will present a special Lunch and Learn seminar titled: "Advances in Breast Cancer Diagnosis," on Thursday, October 25 at noon. The seminar will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium, Room C at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual screening mammography, in combination with a physical exam, for all women over age 40. "Some women should be screened at an earlier age, including those who have a close relative such as a mother, grandmother or sister who was diagnosed with pre-menopausal breast cancer," Hesser advises.

"Recently, there have been troubling signs that fewer women are coming in for their annual mammograms," she adds. "In 2000, nearly 70 percent of women over age 40 received mammogram screenings. In 2005, that number had dropped to 66 percent. We really want to encourage women to have an annual mammogram. Granted, a mammogram may cause some mild discomfort, but a few moments of discomfort once a year could save your life."

In addition to providing screening and diagnostic mammograms, the Washington Women's Center offers breast ultrasounds. Breast MRIs are performed by Alliance MRI at the Washington West Imaging Center, which is adjacent to the Women's Center.

"A breast ultrasound is often done if a suspicious area shows up on a mammogram or if the patient or her physician detects a lump," Hesser explains. "An ultrasound uses sound waves, rather than radiation. These sound waves will pass through fluid-filled nodules such as benign cysts, but will not pass through a solid mass and a breast biopsy may be recommended."

In some cases, a breast MRI may be used to provide images to aid the physician in diagnosing and planning treatment for breast cancer. "MRI of the breast is not a replacement for mammography or ultrasound imaging, but rather an additional tool for women who fall into a high-risk category for breast cancer," says Dugoni, a surgeon who has worked with breast cancer patients for more than 20 years.

An MRI, which uses radio frequency signals instead of radiation, provides computer-generated images of extremely thin segments of the breast, viewed from multiple directions. The MRI technology at the Washington West Imaging Center provides exceptional image quality, which has several advantages, Dugoni notes.

"Bilateral breast MRI scans can help physicians evaluate and diagnose possible cancers as early as possible, which not only could save the patient's life, but also provide women with more peace of mind, since the whole process can be performed all in one day," he says.

In addition to women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer, MRI can be helpful in detecting breast cancer in women with breast implants and women with dense breast tissue - both of which make it difficult to get accurate images using traditional mammography.

To register for the "Advances in Breast Cancer Diagnosis" seminar, please call (800) 963-7070.

The Washington Outpatient Imaging Center located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) offers a full range of diagnostic services in one location including digital mammography. To schedule an appointment for your annual mammogram, please call (510) 791-3410 or visit for more information.

Washington Hospital
Tri-City Voice article re: breast cancer diagnosis

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