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3-D mammogram designed to improve breast cancer detection

This week marks the first time ever where patients in Georgia can undergo a 3-D mammogram screening.

3-D mammograms help doctors see breast tissue more distinctly, which leads to better early detection (WRDW-TV / July 14, 2011)

News 12 This Morning / Thursday, July 14, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- This week marks the first time ever where patients in Georgia can undergo a 3-D mammogram screening. It's a fairly new process and the technology was approved for use on patients by the FDA in February. In Georgia, GHSU is the only place where patients are being screened using the technology.

Doctors are calling it the new gold standard in breast cancer detection. One of the first patients to be screened through GHSU's new 3-D mammography machine is Nicole Aenchbacher. She is the breast health navigator at the hospital.

"Today I'm going to have my first mammogram," Aenchbacher said. "Never had a mammogram before."

As she tries to get comfortable, the X-ray camera snaps images from all angles to give doctors a better perspective.

"We're seeing through the tissue in layers like we've never seen before," said Dr. Suzanne Thigpen, the lead mammographer at GHSU.

Doctor Thigpen explains regular 2-D images capture the breast in one exposure. You end up with a flat image where the eye can play tricks on you and lumps and tumors are harder to spot.

"We just looked at all of the tissue piled on top of each other. You couldn't tell what things are at what level," Thigpen said.

As she clicks through Aenchbacher's slides, she doesn't see anything unusual. She shows us other images that do have trouble spots which weren't spotted with regular 2-D imaging. With the new added layers, doctors can pinpoint the size, shape and location of a tumor or lump more precisely.

"This is as big a jump forward from the time we didn't do mammography, until the time we started doing them," Thigpen said. "You can find cancers you can't see otherwise."

Aenchbacher said she was anxious about her first mammogram, but now she'll be able to tell other patients firsthand about the experience and the life-saving technology.

"Probably the positioning was the worst. It was just awkward, but not uncomfortable or painful in anyway."

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer, but with early detection, the five-year survival rate is 97 percent.

Insurance companies have to come up with a new code to file this 3-D mammogram under since the technology is so new. If you get a mammogram scheduled at GHSU, they'll screen you with the 3-D machine and you should be covered. Thigpen said she believes within a year, most hospitals will screen for breast cancer with the 3-D mammogram.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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