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3-D mammography triples noninvasive cancer detection, cuts recall rate in half

As more health facilities acquire 3-D mammogram technology, providers are seeing an increased detection in noninvasive breast cancer and a sharp reduction in the need for patient recalls. Every woman, especially those with dense breast tissue — which includes 40% of all women — can benefit from having a 3-D mammogram, according to the lead mammographer at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes.

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Sara Skalin, lead mammographer at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes, examines an X-ray image of a breast, part of the hospital's Hologic Dimensions 3-D Mammography System, on Aug. 13, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — It helps with early detection, which can lead to better health outcomes.

It also produces a more complete picture for health providers to assist them in making recommendations for possible treatment options.

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The Hologic Dimensions 3D-Mammography System at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The Hologic Dimensions 3-D Mammography System has been a game changer for early-cancer detection since they first started rolling out to providers over the last decade.

Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, has used 3-D mammography technology since 2015 and has begun to see the results in a reduction of patient call-backs and increased discovery rate of noninvasive breast cancer, said Sara Skalin, lead mammographer at Essentia Health St. Mary's. The system is used in various hospitals and clinics throughout the Essentia Health network.

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"Here in Detroit Lakes, our recall rate did go down by half and then, our invasive breast cancer, we found double the amount," Skalin said. "And then, (detection) for our noninvasive breast cancer, those pre-cancers, that tripled. So, when you talk about what you can find, definitely a lot more. A lot more than a 2-D image."

While the 3-D system uses X-rays and operates in the exact same way as the 2-D system, the 3-D system takes 15 images at varying degrees and then synthesizes 1mm-slices of the breast tissue. The software then compiles the snapshots into a layered image that can be viewed at varying depths of the breast by a technician.

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The Hologic Dimensions 3D-Mammography System at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It can look intimidating for someone who has never had a mammogram," Skalin said. "We walk our patients through the exam, explain what's happening, so they are not surprised."

The system also has a variety of paddles that can be used to compress the breast based on the woman's comfort level, breast size and density.

"I feel that it is worth mentioning that every patient can benefit from having a 3-D mammogram but especially those with dense breast tissue, which accounts for about 40% of all women," Skalin said in a post-interview email.

According to the National Cancer Institute, 13% of all women born in the United States today will develop breast cancer over the course of their lives.

Women should start their annual mammogram screenings after turning 40 years old, Skalin said. She added that patients without a family history of breast cancer should still sign up for the annual exam.

"It doesn't matter," she said. "You could be that family history and be the one with breast cancer in your family."

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Sara Skalin, lead mammographer at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes, examines an x-ray-image of a breast, part of the hospital's Hologic Dimensions 3D-Mammography System, on Aug. 13, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The equipment doesn't come cheap: These Hologic Dimensions 3-D Mammography Systems can cost anywhere from $170,000 to $275,000, according to an online medical supplier . Essentia Health in Detroit Lakes also uses a screening program called Genius AI, which can identify and mark calcifications, or masses, on a 3-D mammogram, Skalin said.

"It's an expensive piece of equipment, but it's very important to have the latest technology because ... finding those breast cancers early, that's the most important," Skalin said. "If they are caught early (the patient's) prognosis is much better, and a lot of times our patients just need to have a surgery to remove the cancer. A lot of times we don't have to do radiation, chemo or hormone therapy when we're finding tiny cancers early."

You could be that family history and be the one with breast cancer in your family.

The Essentia Health Clinic in Park Rapids, Minnesota, acquired its 3-D mammography system in the last few weeks and, Skalin said, with the ability of doctors in Detroit Lakes to view images in Park Rapids online, similar increases in cancer detection can be expected as they begin to use their new system. The Park Rapids system also has the latest screening software: 3DQuorum Imaging Technology, powered by Genius AI, which allows a radiologist to view the X-ray layers in 1mm slices or 6 mm sections, Skalin said.

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Sara Skalin, lead mammographer at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes, demonstrates the operation of the Hologic Dimensions 3D-Mammography System on Aug. 13, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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Sara Skalin, lead mammographer at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes, demonstrates the operation of the Hologic Dimensions 3D-Mammography System on Aug. 13, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"And again, with technology, it's better for the patient to see more detail," she added.

Related Topics: ESSENTIA HEALTHNEWSMD
Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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