Gold standard digital mammography provided at Enumclaw’s hospital

By Dr. David H. Rice

For The Courier-Herald

Enumclaw Regional Hospital has been using digital mammography for nearly 18 months. The results we see every day are every bit as impressive as we had hoped when the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation generously agreed to fund the purchase of this state-of-the-art digital technology to provide screening and diagnostic mammograms.

Mammography continues to be the most important tool doctors have to help diagnose breast cancer and follow women who have had the disease. This was so with the older film mammograms, but is even more so now. The digital imaging technology we use at Enumclaw Regional Hospital is the gold standard for mammography. Safe and highly accurate, a mammogram is a low-dose X-ray photograph of the breast. Mammography can detect cancer or other problems before a lump becomes large enough to be felt.

The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology recommend a mammogram every year for women age 40 and older. We continue to support this recommendation, despite the highly publicized findings in the last year suggesting otherwise. Every woman should decide what to do in consultation with her healthcare provider.

Digital mammography uses the same X-rays as traditional film screen mammography except, with digital, images of unparalleled clarity and detail are recorded directly into a computer. These images can then be enlarged or highlighted, as needed by the radiologist, and potential signs of cancer that are smaller than a speck of dust can be detected. The earlier that breast cancer is detected, the greater the chances for successful medical treatment.

Benefits of digital mammography include greater convenience, increased comfort during the exam and potentially less exposure to radiation. With typical screen film mammography, patients usually undergo four views, film processing and then a technologist review. If additional images are needed, this cumbersome process must be repeated. With the full-field digital mammography we use at Enumclaw Regional Hospital, image processing is immediate. This feature allows the technologist to reposition the patient and redo an image if necessary. Because our technologists can view images within seconds and confirm proper positioning of the patient, this reduces the likelihood that our patients will be called back. Fewer repeat images means less exposure to radiation for our patients.

Finally, storing and archiving images has greatly improved with digital technology because no studies are lost and there is no need to store film. If necessary, we can electronically send images to other specialists anywhere in the region or nation for a second opinion.

To schedule a digital mammogram at Enumclaw Regional Hospital, call 360-802-3223.

Radiologist David Rice is medical staff president at Enumclaw Regional Hospital. He is certified by the American Board of Radiology. Enumclaw Regional Hospital is part of the Franciscan Health System.

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