What about breast cancer?

Behind the heads with Mary Jo Wiedel

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Q. What technology do you have available in the Diagnostic Imaging Department for the detection of breast cancer?

A. We are very fortunate to have the detection equipment of a comprehensive breast imaging center. Our capabilities include screening and diagnostic mammography, CAD (computer-aided detection), stereotactic biopsy, needle localization and ultrasound.

Our department's role is to provide high-quality images, using the technologies listed above, to assist in a diagnosis. Our full-time radiologists carefully review each image for abnormalities.

Q. Who is at risk for breast

cancer?

A. According to Dr. Fred Jones, a radiologist at YVMC, "For most women, the most significant risk factors are: female gender and advancing age. Additional significant risks include having a family history of breast cancer in a first- degree relative (mother or sister), having a personal history of breast cancer and/or having had a prior biopsy with noncancerous but high-risk diagnosis."

Q. It seems that we are hearing more stories about women getting breast cancer. Is it on the rise?

A. One out of every 8 to 9 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

The risk begins to rise at age 35 and progressively increases with age. Because women are living longer and the quality of imaging has advanced, more women are being diagnosed.There has been a 24 percent increase in breast cancer incidence from 1983 to 1997. Women are more aware, as are their physicians. Early diagnosis is the key to the most effective treatment, thus screening mammography is still the best defense.

Q. When should women start going in for mammograms?

A. According to The American Cancer Society guidelines, a yearly screening mammogram should start at age 40.

A more frequent schedule or earlier mammogram may be advisable if you have a personal history or family history of breast cancer.

It is always best to consult with your physician on the possible need for earlier or more frequent mammography.

Q. What should a women expect from her first mammogram?

A. You will be greeted by a skilled, female mammographer and asked to fill out a form for personal history reasons. Your mammographer will then explain how the mammogram will be performed.

A mammogram consists of a series of x-rays of a compressed breast taken from two angles -- from above to below, and side toward center. The mammographer will review your films to ensure a quality screening study has been obtained.

Q. Will the mammogram hurt?

A. Discomfort is common upon compression, yet this compression is very important and necessary for a quality exam. You should schedule your exam when your breasts are least sensitive.

Q. What if they find something abnormal during a mammogram?

A. At Yampa Valley Medical Center it is our policy that if a screening mammogram requires follow-up we will contact the patient and the patient's physician. Together, the patient and her doctor will discuss and determine the appropriate course of care.

On a diagnostic mammogram, your physician will be called while you are in the Imaging Department and the radiologist will discuss the findings with you.

Q. How far in advance do you need to schedule your mammogram?

A. We schedule about three weeks out. If you have found a lump through breast self-examination or your physician has found a lump or feels you need to be seen sooner, we will add you on to our schedule that day if necessary. It is our policy to accommodate the physical as well as the personal needs of our patients.

We realize this can be a scary thing for a woman to go through, and we strive to meet all our patients' needs.

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