Early detection best protection from breast cancer, technician says

Published 1:00 pm Monday, October 30, 2023

RIDGEGREST, La. — When it comes to fighting breast cancer, “Early detection is key,” said Chelsea Craig, a mammography technician at Trinity Medical Center.

Since Trinity’s new hospital facility opened in February 2021, a 3D mammography machine was part of its offerings, Craig said.

“We offer both 3D screenings and diagnostic mammograms,” she said.

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“The benefit of having a 3D mammogram is that it offers precise detail and better understanding of the breast tissue and reduces the need for follow-up imaging if (the screening) comes back abnormal.”

A 3D mammogram machine produces both a 3D picture from multiple X-rays as well as the standard 2D image, but not all medical facilities have them, Craig said.

“It’s important to know whether your hospital offers the additional diagnostic imaging or if you will need to go somewhere else,” Craig said. “Fortunately, our facility does all additional diagnostic imaging that’s needed but not all places do.”

It’s recommended by the American Association of Oncology that all women begin annual breast exams beginning at age 40, which is covered by most medical insurance.

Craig said mammograms are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

There is a small amount of radiation exposure, but a very small amount, she said.

“The earlier that you can detect breast cancer the better,” she said. “The reason we wait until age 40 I because the younger you are the more dense your breast tissue is and the harder it is to examine. … Early detection is the key. If there’s cancer there, the earlier you find it the better.”

Craig said most patients have their results the following day. Regardless of whether a screening comes back normal or abnormal, the patient receives a letter in the mail with a copy of their report. If a screening is abnormal, the physician will usually call and notify the patient beforehand, she said.

“It your results are abnormal, we get you in pretty quickly,” Craig said.

A lot of women fear getting their first breast exam because they hear horror stories about how uncomfortable it is, she said.

“I hate that because the horror stories you hear are not always the case,” she said. “I like to tell people, while it is an uncomfortable test, we work with our patients to get the best possible picture we can that the patient can withstand. We’re gentle and do the exam slowly to get to a certain level of compression.”