UPHS-Portage is home to 3D mammogram
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While most people are aware of breast cancer, not everyone is aware of how it is diagnosed and treated. Fewer people still are aware of what breast cancer means for residents of Houghton County.
Dealing with breast cancer begins with the tests that diagnose it. That test is often a mammogram, according to Lynn LaTendresse. LaTendresse is the lead mammogram technologist at UP Health System – Portage. She manages the team that performs the 2500 mammograms done at Portage in a year and is responsible for making sure that the machines are running properly.
Each mammogram consists of two images of each breast, taken while the patient stands against the mammography machine.
“We do use compression because it helps to spread out that denser tissue and provide a clearer image,” said LaTandresse. “I always tell the patients that I’ll try to work with them. You don’t want the experience to be so uncomfortable that they don’t want to return because it is such an important test.”
The good news is that mammograms have come a long way in recent years, reducing call-backs and increasing early detection.
“3D mammography is the newest technology. It’s able to see through dense breast tissue,” said LaTandresse.
With older technology, dense breast tissue could make the mammogram difficult to read – or worse – create a false positive.
“3D mammography creates images that our radiologists can sort of page through,” she said. “It’s very beneficial for early-stage breast cancer diagnosis.”
Like all diagnostic imaging, mammograms need to be ordered by a physician – they cannot be requested by an individual. It is recommended that women over 40 schedule a mammogram once per year for early detection. That is particularly the case for women who have had breast cancer in the past and women who have relatives that have had breast cancer.
So what happens if a mammogram does detect something? Even with 3D mammography, other tests are required to confirm the results. Possible subsequent tests include ultrasound, MRI, and potentially even a biopsy – a test in which tissue is removed to test it for cancerous cells. If a biopsy comes back positive for cancer, it is time to start working with a doctor.
Dr. Lloyd Geddes is a cancer care expert at UPHS – Portage.
“Breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosed in women world-wide, as well as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women,” said Geddes. “The biggest risk factor is the female gender.”
Men can get breast cancer. However, roughly 220,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually compared to 2,700 men.
Other risk factors include age, having the first child at an advanced age, not having children, beginning menstruation at a young age, over-exposure to estrogen, exposure to radiation, and genetic factors. While most of the risk factors cannot be controlled, people can lower their risk of breast cancer by maintaining active, eating right, and getting adequate sleep.
“The main takeaway is lifestyle modification in addition to screening because those are the things you can control,” said Geddes.
In addition to annual mammograms, Geddes recommends that women perform self-examinations at least monthly.
“A major aspect of breast cancer is screening … the earlier you identify breast cancer, the earlier the stage. The earlier the stage, the easier it is to treat,” he said.
When lowering risk is not enough and breast cancer is diagnosed, there are a number of treatment options. These include mastectomy, lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone treatment.
“At Portage, definitely surgery, chemotherapy, and or hormonal therapy (are available),” said Geddes. “If someone chooses what we call ‘conservative breast treatment,’ which would be a lumpectomy and radiation, we would coordinate with our sister hospital in Marquette and the external radiation therapy would be given there.”
While there are not any good things to say about breast cancer, there are more and more good things to be said about its treatment.
“The good thing in breast cancer now is that we’re doing more genomic testing so we’re more able to tailor treatment to the person and their cancer,” said Geddes.
To learn more about breast cancer diagnosis and how you can lower your risk, start by talking to your primary care provider or by using the “Find a Doctor” tool on PortageHealth.org.
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