Regular screenings can save lives, insist staff at Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center
October 16, 2017
They have a motto at the UCHealth Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center.
"Our motto is ‘regular screening save lives,’" said nurse navigator Frannie Johnson. "Early screening is huge. Radiologists look for very fine, small changes in breast tissue, and the sooner the changes are found, the more lives that can be saved."
Lead mammographer Tiffany Park said the staff at the center is working hard to break down the stigma that has long been associated with women coming in for mammographs. Gone are the cold, sterile examination rooms, the cold machinery and staff members who saw mammograms as just another procedure.
In Steamboat Springs, the Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center has made those images a thing of the past.
"The appointment part is easy,” Park said. “They call, they get scheduled, and we are able to get women in for screening mammograms usually in the same week. We have plenty of openings."
She said the new, modern facility at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center is more like a spa than what patients had come to expect in the past. The center offers mammographs, breast ultrasounds, biopsies, bone density tests and genetic screenings, all in an atmosphere aimed at giving women personal attention and making them feel comfortable.
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"I know a lot of women are concerned. They hear that it’s gong to be painful," Johnson said. "The techs do not cause pain — there is pressure, just enough to hold the breast still, but we don't compress for no purpose. The compression is to spread out the breast tissue so that we can actually define the tissue."
The actual process of getting a mammogram takes roughly 30 minutes from the time a woman walks through the breast health center's doors to check in, until they leave afterward.
"Once the patient’s checked in we bring them back to into our breast center and which is like a spa environment," Johnson said. "We have infused water, warm gowns and we try to keep the women as relaxed and comfortable as we can. They come into a mammography room that's a good temperature, not like a normal hospital cold environment, and then we will kind of sit and talk to the patient for a while. We like to find out their family history, and if they have any current concerns."
Park said the women are eventually led to an exam room where they are positioned and normally two or three images of each breast are taken.
In today's digital world, the technicians know almost immediately if the images are good, or if the woman needs to be repositioned to produce the images that technicians and doctors need. The center exclusively uses 3D mammography, or digital tomosynthesis, for screenings.
"3D is our standard of care here now," Johnson said. "We do 3D, which is just more small consecutive x-rays to develop a 3D image that provides a better image of the breast tissue, and allows us to see with more detail."
Park and Johnson said today's technology has made the process of getting a mammogram a lot easier, faster and less intimidating than in the past. The technicians hope that the new technology helps erode some of the reservations women have about coming in for a screening, because the exams are key to catching breast cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat.
The staff at the Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center believe that having mammograms at an earlier age is the best way to save lives.
"For us what we are looking for is to have women coming in starting at age 40," Johnson said.
She said the American College of Radiology and Society of breast Imaging both recommend that women come in for mammograms once a year at age 40. Those with a family history of breast cancer may need to come in earlier.
"They come in for initial treatment with that fear, but most of them they walk out saying, 'That was not what I expected, that was not so bad,'", Park said. "It's the trade off — a few minutes of slight pressure for a clean bill of health for another year."