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Friday, May 6, 2016

Cox Monett now offers digital mammography

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Radiologic Technologist (RT), Elaine McElroy shows off the new digital mammogram machine at Cox Monett Hospital. The machine replaces an older, analog one and offers such benefits as faster exams and better contrast for the doctor reading the images. [Times Photo by Kristin Nama]
A new weapon has recently been added to Cox Monett Hospital's arsenal against breast cancer. The radiology department's analog mammogram machine has been replaced with a digital one that offers such advantages as faster exams, better contrast and easier comparison of current and previous images.

Cox Monett Hospital got its GE Senographe Essential digital mammogram machine in February. The hospital previously had an analog machine and has been doing mammograms since 1989, according to Elaine McElroy, radiologic technologist (RT).

With today's technology, most facilities are switching to digital, McElroy said. CoxHealth was the first in the area to get a digital mammography machine in 2001. Now Cox South, Cox North, Cox Monett and Ferrell-Duncan Clinic are all digital.

According to GE Healthcare, this machine offers three exclusive image processing algorithms as well as Automatic Optimization of Parameters (AOP) for extremely precise and reliable visualization across the entire breast and is suitable for patients of different shapes and sizes. AOP automatically determines the best exposure parameters based on breast radiological properties.

One of the main differences between digital mammography and the standard mammography lies in how the image is captured. In standard mammography, images are recorded on film using an x-ray cassette and the film is viewed by the radiologist using a "light box."

With digital mammography, the breast image is captured using a special electronic x-ray detector, which converts the image into a digital picture for review on a computer monitor.

A digital mammogram uses slightly less radiation than the analog machine and is especially effective for women who have denser breasts, usually women under age 50.

Many women will want to know if the new digital machine means the process will be more comfortable. The physical experience will be the same, McElroy said. Compression of the breast for the mammogram is still necessary and the level of discomfort varies from one woman to the next for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with digital versus analog. McElroy said the patient probably won't see a big difference in the exam except that it will be faster because they do not have to change film. The image is sent directly to the computer without the need to record it on film, change films or take the film to the darkroom.
Film will no longer be developed and sent to Springfield to be read, so the images will immediately be available to the radiologist on the computer. Radiologists at CoxHealth Women's Center Breast Care Clinic read all the mammograms done at any Cox facility. They will be able to bring the images up on their own desktop. In less than 10 seconds the image taken by the machine comes up on the computer, McElroy said.

With the digital images the doctor can also change the contrast and adjust the image for a better view. Another advantage of digital mammography is that the doctor can easily compare current and previous studies on the computer without requesting or handling the films of older exams.

"In addition, we are taking our old film images and digitizing them," McElroy said.

Under the federal Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA), all mammogram facilities, including Cox Monett Hospital, must comply with "uniform quality standards." The standards include: being accredited by an FDA-approved accreditation body; being certified by FDA, or its state, as meeting the standards; and undergoing an annual MQSA inspection. Cox Monett's facility complies with the required standards including being accredited every three years through the American College of Radiology and an annual inspection by MQSA.
There are a few things women can do to prepare for a mammogram that may make the experience more comfortable for them, McElroy said. Try to schedule the exam during a time of the month that will be most comfortable for you and cut back on caffeine for a couple of weeks before the exam.

The day of your appointment either do not wear deodorant, lotion, or talcum power or you will be asked to wash it off before the exam. This is because aluminum in deodorant and other products can appear on the images and mimic calcifications and you want to get the clearest image that you can, she said. Taking some Tylenol or Advil about an hour can also help.

Cox Monett does about 100 screening mammograms a month. They tend to do more of the exams in the fall, McElroy said.

Cox Monett schedules mammograms four days a week. To make an appointment, contact Cox Monett at 354-1157.

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