Kennewick General Hospital offering 3D mammograms

Taylor Biggs, KGH Mammography Technician, demonstrates the features of the new Digital Breast Tomosynthesis System Photo contributed by Tamie Bradbury, marketing specialist for KGH. 

Taylor Biggs, KGH Mammography Technician, demonstrates the features of the new Digital Breast Tomosynthesis System Photo contributed by Tamie Bradbury, marketing specialist for KGH.

By Elsie Puig for TCAJOB

Kennewick General Hospital Diagnostic Imaging Center in Kennewick has installed new 3D mammogram software to better detect breast cancer in women.

KGH began installing the machine the last week of August and in September training began for radiology and mammography technicians in the hospital.

KGH is the first Tri-Cities hospital to acquire the Hologic Selenia Dimensions Digital Breast Tomosynthesis System, the first 3D mammography device of its kind.

There is one in Walla Walla and one in Yakima.

The Kennewick hospital will begin using the new 3D imaging technology in mid-September.

The unit itself cost the hospital more than $500,000, but improved efficiency in breast cancer detection and lower incidence of false positives is expected to dramatically decrease call-back rates for the hospital.
 That means that fewer women will have to undergo additional testing — cutting back on the operational costs in the long-run, said Dr. Alan Ford, KGH radiologist.

“It allows the radiologist to see more of the masses that otherwise would be obscured by breast tissue, multiple studies show that this increases the accuracy and decreases the rate of call back by almost a third, it’s a step in the right direction,” said Ford.

It also alleviates anxiety in women, which is a critical component of patient care, Ford added.

Right now the average rate of call back for standard two-dimensional mammograms is 15 to 20 percent.

“We think the cost certainly is the least important factor when you compare what it can do now compared to the prior technology we were using, the biggest benefit is to the community, the wellness of the community, being able to detect cancer sooner is a big advantage,” said David Young, KGH’s director of diagnostic imaging.

The technology, called tomosynthesis, provides three-dimensional images of the breast. The imaging machine arches over the breast, taking multiple X-rays that the software uses to build a three-dimensional image, almost like turning the pages in a book.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the 3-D tomosynthesis device in 2011.

According to the FDA, the new 3-D imaging technology does administer a slightly higher dose of radiation, but is well within safety limits and administering the 3-D mammogram may help women avoid radiation from repeat exams.

“The [breasts] are in compression maybe two, three seconds longer, to a total of six or seven seconds which is not very long,” said Taylor Biggs, a KGH mammography technician. “Most patients will not notice much of a difference.”

Biggs also anticipates the new technology to accommodate more patients because what would originally be a call-back scheduling slot will now be allocated to standard diagnostic, making appointment scheduling more convenient.

As part of the approval process, the FDA reviewed results from two studies where board-certified radiologists were asked to review 2-D and 3-D images from more than 300 mammography exams.

In both studies, radiologists viewing both the 2-D and 3-D images obtained a 7 percent improvement in their ability to tell the difference between normal and abnormal findings compared to viewing the 2-D images alone.

Ford says that the 3-D mammogram is especially useful for women with dense breast tissue because they not have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, it is also more difficult to see a clear image.

“The more dense it is, the harder it is to find that needle in the haystack,” said Ford. “That is why we like this tomosynthesis so much — because we are able to remove much of that haystack and look at various section to actually find that needle.”

Lisa Teske, KGH’s director of marketing and business development, said the new technology does not mean patients will pay more for tests.

“Normally, I would expect the higher cost of the technology would translate to higher costs to the patient, however KGH examined this and decided to hold our pricing,” Teske said. “We are a not-for-profit and our objective is to serve patients with the best technology available.

The new machine comes at an ideal time for KGH, Teske added.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and KGH will have the machine just in time for pink ribbon events.


Mary Coffman by Mary Coffman
Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

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