New Fairview breast center offers advanced technology

Dylan Thomas

From its new digital mammography to surgery consultation, the newly opened Fairview-University Breast Center offers patients comprehensive care under one roof.

Lisa Hurt, Breast Center manager, said it houses radiologists and oncologists as well as consulting for surgery and, soon, plastic surgery.

Pastel colored walls are decorated with artwork created by women to provide a soothing environment.

The center’s staff works with patients to coordinate its services with others available at the University, such as genetic counseling or meetings with a breast cancer support group.

Hurt said the center also offers two new technologies: computer-aided detection of breast cancer and digital mammography.

She said the computer-aided detection equipment uses a computer program that examines the picture of a breast taken with mammography equipment and identifies areas that warrant further investigation by a doctor.

“The goal with computer-aided detection is to try to increase our breast cancer detection by adding, essentially, a second set of eyes reading the mammogram,” Hurt said.

While the technology is not necessarily new or even unique among metro-area hospitals, relatively few hospitals offer computer-aided breast cancer detection, Hurt said.

She said the computer cannot examine mammography results alone – a human evaluation is still essential. However, they expect the computer-aided detection technology to increase cancer detection by approximately 10 percent.

Tim Emory, a University radiologist, said the new digital mammography equipment is not so different from the traditional

technology, except the new machine records a digital image instead of using film.

While the digital technology makes the mammography process marginally faster and more accurate, its main advantage is in the ability to archive mammography images. Because digital images can be electronically stored and retrieved, it is easier to dig up old mammography images to compare them with new ones.

Emotional care

In addition to services meant to treat the physical disease, the Breast Center also provides resources to help women cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of breast cancer.

Susan Pappas-Varco, Breast Center program coordinator, who helps women deal with cancer both before and after surgery, knows the kind of trauma women can experience.

“Women really fear breast cancer because of that stigma of, ‘I have cancer and something is going to happen – perhaps disfiguring – to my body,’ ” Pappas-Varco said.

Among the services Pappas-Varco provides are talking with women about the results of their mammograms, organizing a breast cancer support group and helping women schedule chemotherapy and other appointments.

She said the fear and stigma attached to breast cancer are somewhat ironic, considering statistics show it is a very treatable type of cancer. Seventy-five percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive 10 years later, Pappas-Varco said.

But perhaps the most important part of breast cancer care is early detection. Hurt said it is recommended that women get mammograms every year after they turn 40.

While women can come to the University’s center for routine mammograms, Hurt said the Fairview-Riverside Breast Center offers easy access and, often, same-day appointments. There are also five Fairview-run imaging sites in the metro area that offer mammograms.

Dylan Thomas welcomes comments at [email protected]