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A Lightbulb Moment: Clearer Breast Imaging Means Faster Diagnoses

Like most of the patients at Lake Medical Imaging (LMI) in central Florida, Kathi Schue is no stranger to mammograms. With imaging offices in the 5.5-square-mile retirement community known as The Villages, LMI caters to the over-60 crowd. While this group is statistically more likely to get breast cancer, they also have a secret weapon that helps with early detection: lots of previous scans.

“Having multiple prior mammograms for comparison helps avoid the need to call back the patient for extra views unnecessarily,” says Dr. Cathrine Keller, managing physician at LMI.

In Schue’s case, those older scans helped point to an issue that raised a red flag. They tipped radiologists off to a problem when Schue came in for her regular mammogram. Radiologists saw a tiny gray shadow that hadn’t been there before. They suggested Schue return for a follow-up exam.

But there was a catch. The typical next step would have been for Schue to have an MRI, but because she has a neurostimulator (a stopwatch-sized metal implant that delivers mild electrical signals), magnetic imaging was out of the question.

Instead, Schue’s radiologists turned to GE Healthcare’s SenoBright Contrast-Enhanced Spectral Mammography (CESM) technology. SenoBright works like a typical mammogram, where the technologist positions the woman in front of a machine which images each breast. But with SenoBright, the patient is first injected with a contrast agent which can highlight areas of unusual blood flow on the image. The process is quick — radiologists can review images in less than 10 minutes — and the images are clear enough to allow for a quick diagnosis.

GE Healthcare’s SenoBright Contrast-Enhanced Spectral Mammography is an excellent diagnostic test for doctors and for this patient population, as older women often find it uncomfortable to lie prone in the MR machine, says Dr. Christine Keller. “So many women are extremely fearful of breast cancer and therefore, even coming in for a screening mammogram makes them anxious,” Keller says. “If I can make that experience better for them, it’s more likely they’ll continue to have their annual screenings. Early detection is the best protection.” Image credits: GE Healthcare.

“When I was called to see the results, I knew why they call it SenoBright,” says Schue. “It was like someone turned on a lightbulb on the screen. I saw bright white where there had only been a hint of grey on my prior images. I wasn’t surprised when they recommended a biopsy.”

The biopsy showed a 4mm invasive ductal cancer. But thanks to early detection, her surgeon was able to remove two clear sentinel nodes and her margins were so clear that she didn’t need adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

“Putting someone through hell is not a false positive on a mammogram,” Schue says. “Hell is not finding a tumor that’s there.”

Radiologists at LMI have made SenoBright one of the central tools in their effort to uphold a patient-centric philosophy where they provide same-day test results as often as possible. Although providing fast results often requires having more radiologists and staff, Keller believes it is well worth it for her patients to leave knowing they’re OK, or with a clear idea of what the next steps will be — especially when it comes to breast cancer.

“So many women are extremely fearful of breast cancer and therefore, even coming in for a screening mammogram makes them anxious,” Keller says. “If I can make that experience better for them, it’s more likely they’ll continue to have their annual screenings. Early detection is the best protection.”

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