Canton-Potsdam Hospital adds new breast exam technology
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 6:25 am

POTSDAM – Canton-Potsdam Hospital has added new technology that can make examination easier for women with denser breast tissue than others.

Known as Automated Breast Volume Scanning (ABVS), the technology captures 3D ultrasound images of breast tissue. It is recommended to be used when screening women whose breast tissue is categorized as dense glandular tissue. Dense breast tissue may hide abnormalities that otherwise might be visible through mammography alone.

“Before we had this technology, we used hand-held ultrasound to screen dense breast tissue,” said CPH Chief of Imaging and Chief of the Medical Staff Dr. Michael Maresca. “But hand-held ultrasounds are time-consuming and are dependent on the technologist’s manipulation of the transducer, the part of ultrasound that is swept over the body part being imaged,” he said.

“Automated 3D ultrasound removes human error when capturing the images and also removes the subjectivity in interpretation,” said Maresca. “It’s preprogrammed to ensure that all views of the breast are captured and the views are evaluated by a radiologist at a 3D workstation, so the images may be analyzed in any desired direction,” he said. “This makes it easier to compare the results with mammography and MRI images, which results in a more accurate diagnosis for women with dense breast tissue.”

Women with dense breast tissue have higher risk of breast cancer than women with little or no glandular tissue in their breasts. Women with dense breast tissue are more likely to suffer from more invasive and more life-threatening forms of breast cancer, according to Maresca.

Maresca said that studies have shown that mammography alone is not as effective in detecting cancerous tumors in women with dense breast tissue. Using mammography in conjunction with ABVS provides more thorough evaluation, he said.

“A woman’s primary care practitioner can determine if this additional study is appropriate,” he said. “The tissue characteristics, combined with personal and family health history, and any genetic profiling that has been done, can guide women and their practitioners in determining how best to screen for breast cancer and how to reduce a woman’s risk of getting the disease,” he said.

“Every woman is individual, and a personalized approach is best. This technology gives us an additional, extremely precise screening tool for assisting women whose cancer might be missed with mammography,” he added. “I’m very hot on this technology and that is why we, at CPH and Gouverneur hospital, have pushed hard for it. We recognize the value to women, and by expanding our screening program to include ABVS, we can better serve women from all areas in NNY. I’ve been doing breast imaging and interventions since 1987 and luckily have seen every new development in that regard. In my mind, this is a huge step towards further reducing the mortality from breast cancer,” said Maresca.

“With the addition of ABVS to our screening mammography program we expect to double the amount of cancers we detect. Screening mammography finds 3.5 cancers out of every 1000 performed. Adding ABVS to that screening process in women with dense breast increases that rate to 7.2 out of every 1000. It will help us pick up cancers that could not be seen by screening mammography alone. This tool does not replace a diagnostic ultrasound, which is done when an abnormality is seen on mammography or felt by either the patient or their provider. It is a screening tool to be used on women who have been identified as having dense breast tissue. It has been a steep learning curve, but an enjoyable and highly gratifying road for myself and all our technologists involved.”

According to Director of Imaging Services Stacie Woodward, RN, some of the most common questions they expect to hear are:

• “Does 3D Ultrasound replace mammography?”

“Absolutely not,” said Woodward. Mammography is considered the standard in breast screening, but it misses 20 to 40 percent of the cancers in women with dense breast tissue, she said.

• “What’s the exam process like?” “The procedure involves lying on an imaging table while a swiveling arm-mounted transducer, the part that captures the image, is positioned over the breast and automatically follows a number of preprogrammed paths. The procedure is painless, does not involve radiation and no special dyes or dietary restrictions are required,” said Woodward.

• “Will the procedure be covered by my insurance?” “We encourage patients to check with their healthcare provider and their insurance company before having the scan. NYS was the fourth state to mandate dense breast reporting and many insurance companies do pay for screening ultrasund. To get a supplemental 3D scan, talk with your healthcare provider about your mammogram and whether a 3D scan makes sense,” said Woodward.

ABVS technology is available to patients at CPH’s imaging facilities in Potsdam and in Canton, For more information, interested individuals may contact their primary care practitioner or Stacie Woodward at 261-5932.