Better images, less discomfort with new digital mammography machines |

Better images, less discomfort with new digital mammography machines

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily TribuneRadiologic technologists Winona Petersen, left, and Liz Desiderio inspect the new Novation MAMMOMAT digital mammography machine that was installed last week at Barton Memorial Hospital.

At Barton Memorial Hospital, a new digital mammography machine was installed last week.

“This is something we needed really bad,” said Liz Desiderio, radiologic technologist at Barton.

Two Novation MAMMOMATs by Siemens were installed last week, one in Stateline Medical Center and one at Barton, and patients were able to use them this week. The mammogram machines were the last items to be converted to digital at the hospitals.

The machines were purchased together for less than $700,000, said Denise Sloan-Smart, communications coordinator for Barton.

According to the American Cancer Association, the death rate from breast cancer has decreased since 1990. Between 1990 and 2004, it decreased by 2.2 percent annually. Early detection methods such as mammograms have helped this rate fall.

On the new machine, the quality of the image is better, and it can be saved electronically, said Winona Petersen, radiologic technologist for Barton Memorial Hospital. Images can be sent instantly from office to office if they need to be.

Desiderio said doctors and technologists are able to zoom in, rotate and change the contrast of the picture with the new machine. Some breasts show up lighter or darker than others, so the machine can adjust the picture instantaneously.

The technology provides much more detail for doctors than film did, Petersen said.

Because the image is digital, computer-aided detection also can help the doctor when examining the image.

“It puts the red flag up,” Petersen said.

The process also is much more comfortable than before.

“The other machine was brutal,” Desiderio said.

The MAMMOMAT has a flex pad, which is angled to the breast to produce an even compression. Desiderio said the thickest part of the breast is by the chest, so having an angled flex pad creates a uniform compression.

Another benefit is the amount of time the procedure takes. Instead of taking 30 minutes, the mammogram takes only 10 minutes, Petersen said.

If a lump is detected in the breast and the doctor thinks it should be removed, the MAMMOMAT also can help minimize the amount of breast tissue removed.

The patient is screened using the machine, and the lump is precisely identified. Before digital technology, the area of the lump was localized, so more tissue was removed than necessary.

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