CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids health care professionals has introduced new technology that would help detect breast cancer early.
In a joint news conference Monday, Mercy Medical Center, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, Radiology Consultants of Iowa and OB-GYN Associates unveiled new technology specifically designed to aid women with dense breast tissue.
Called Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS), the machine collects ultrasound images of the whole breast that allows health care professionals to detect cancer or other abnormalities that otherwise might go unnoticed in a mammogram.
“We rarely go a time without hearing of friends or family, and certainly in my own patients, that’s gone through this potential episode, so we want to make sure we have the leading edge of technology available,” said Dr. Tim Quinn, Mercy’s chief of clinical operations.
An ABUS machine now is located at each of the four centers.
Use of ABUS would be a supplemental exam to an annual mammogram for women who have dense breast tissue, said Dr. Arnold Honick, a radiologist at Radiology Consultants as well as the medical director at St. Luke’s Breast and Bone Health and at Mercy’s Women’s Center.
Dense breast tissue refers to the appearance of the breast tissue. When viewed on a mammogram, women with dense breasts have more supportive tissue than fatty tissue. This dense, supportive tissue appears as white on a mammogram, Honick said.
“The importance of that is as density increases, it makes it more difficult for us to find smaller lesions because they as well are going to be white on mammograms,” Honick said. “Therefore, if the patient has denser breast tissue, growth from the breast that would normally be white would be difficult to find.”
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Not only that, but women with extremely dense breast tissue have a four percent to six percent times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with more fatty tissue.
Honick said between 40 percent to 50 percent of women nationwide have the two highest levels of density — heterogeneously dense and extremely dense.
However, Tom Kaloupek, practice administrator at OB/GYN Associates, said his clinic has seen it in about 60 percent of its patients.
“Early detection saves lives and it’s just another tool in conjunction with digital mammography to detect breast cancer,” Kaloupek said.
For Cristina Hurley, a 48-year-old Van Horne resident, screening for the disease is important. She volunteered to be one of the first patients at Radiology Consultants to test ABUS.
“The most I can know is the best, especially at my age,” she said. “Cancer runs in my family and I have a young, vibrant family that I want to be here for and not have to put them through that.”
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