Zeroing In On Tumors

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 10:17am

Cutting edge 3D mammogram helps find breast cancer sooner.

A precise, 3D mammogram machine that's detecting breast cancer sooner has arrived at Oregon's Willamette Valley Medical Center.

Radiologist Dr. David Siepmann believes the 3D tomosynthesis mammography machine is so ground-breaking, it's like going from an X-ray to a CAT scan.

Patricia Heimerl went to the doctor Wednesday for a follow-up mammogram for a suspicious lump in her breast.

The 3D machine captured multiple, sharp images of her breast.

"Who would have thought? I think we're just really lucky," said Heimerl.

The FDA approved the machine just this year.

Dr. Siepmann ordered it knowing it would be approved.

"Even in the short month that we've had it here, we've had several cancers that we found that we really believe we wouldn't have seen if we didn't have the 3D images," Siepmann said.

Siepmann compared pictures of a breast with cancer taken during a conventional mammogram to pictures from the new 3D version.

"I see a mass lesion that looks very suspicious," said Siepmann.

"There are 'fingers' of tumor pulling here, which I really can't see at all on the regular mammogram. So we get these layers of overlapping tissue that can be very confusing to look at, and really by separating out those layers, we can see whether there's a mass hiding there," Siepmann added.

When there are two different layers of breast tissue overlapping, he said, it can look suspicious.

Using the regular mammogram, patients have to come back for more testing.

The new machine, he said, almost eliminates that.

And that is welcome news for Heimerl, who says it's also more comfortable.

"I'm one of the people that has to keep coming back because they don't know what they're looking at or what they're seeing and it's a lot of anxiety for me. I'm glad that I don't have to come back for another year," she said.

Doctors advise women over 40 to get a mammogram every year.

One in eight women will develop breast cancer sometime in her life, according to Siepmann.

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