July 30th, 2004

Great River Medical Center’s Diagnostic Imaging Department is using new technology to enhance its mammography services. A new computer-aided detection (CAD) system helps radiologists review mammograms.

The system is used in conjunction with film-based mammography. After digitizing a film mammogram, the system’s specialized processing software analyzes images and draws radiologists’ attention to suspicious features that may indicate cancer. Radiologists typically review the entire mammogram first, then review the CAD images to see if any areas have been highlighted for additional review. If an image is marked, radiologists go back to the original mammogram to review the area in more detail.

“Early diagnosis is the key to surviving breast cancer," said Great River Medical Center radiologist Steven Davis, M.D. "By using the new CAD system with all screening mammograms, we should significantly increase our detection rate of invasive cancer. In fact, this new technology could result in earlier detection of up to 23.4 percent of breast cancers currently detected with screening mammography in women who had a prior screening mammogram nine to 24 months earlier.”

The Food and Drug Administration has approved this system, and most insurance carriers, including Medicare, cover the cost.

Regular screening mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early, which also is when it is easiest to treat. According to the National Institutes of Health, if breast cancer is identified early—Stage 0 or I—when it is confined to the duct or local area of the breast, the patient’s chances for survival are dramatically higher. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer patients decreases from approximately 95 percent for cancers detected and treated at an early stage, to 36 percent for stage III cancers (where the cancer has spread to the surrounding tissue) to just 7 percent for late-stage cancers that have spread to distant organs.

For more information about mammography services at Great River Medical Center, please call the Diagnostic Imaging Department at (319) 768-4820.