By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
The month of October is designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For those women 40 and older you can honor this month and bring awareness to this disease by getting your mammograms right here in Jones County.
Jones Regional Medical Center (JRMC) in Anamosa has been offering mammogram services since 1996, before the new facility was built. In 2010, they started providing digital mammography to their patients. Cara Milder Forbes, director of Imaging Services at JRMC, said this new technology allows radiologists to adjust the image to clearly see contrast in the tissue better.
“It allows for more image manipulation to see the different densities,” explained Forbes. She said with the change to digital mammography the entire Imaging department is now digital. “This was something new for a small hospital like ours,” she said, with St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids going digital a few years prior.
The imaging department at JRMC is quite extensive for a rural hospital, which continues to grow in many ways. The department includes radiology, general X-ray, CT scans, ultra sounds, nuclear medicine, MRIs, bone densitometry and, of course, mammograms.
In 1997 after JRMC started offering mammogram testing, their figures shows just over 500 mammograms in one year. That figure has doubled to 1,031 in 2011.
Forbes said it is very important to offer these services in Jones County.
“If a service like this wasn’t so convenient, people may not take advantage of it,” she said. “We have a flexible schedule, at the convenience of our patients.”
A radiologist at St. Luke’s reads images and results can be received in just two to three days, said Forbes. She said they look for irregularities in the breast tissue, any mass-like spot or abnormal calcification. If an abnormality were detected, additional mammography images and possibly a breast ultrasound would be recommended. The additional imaging and even breast biopsies can be performed at JRMC as well.
Jill Darrow, one of three mammogram techs at JRMC, said if they could detect breast cancer early, there is a much better outcome.
“Mammograms are the most common tool for detecting breast cancer,” said Darrow. “It’s inexpensive, non-invasive and readily available.”
JRMC and Jones County is lucky to have such technology at its fingertips. Prior to 1996 when the hospital had an imaging department, the mammogram services were done via a mobile machine.
“That limited the services,” explained Forbes. “We strive on offering as many services as we can without our patients having to travel far.”
As for when to start getting your regular mammogram, Darrow said the American Cancer Society suggests mammogram screenings for women 40 and older, on an annual basis. The American College of Radiology suggests the same, depending on one’s family history. Darrow said if you have cancer in your family, your family physician may want you to get a mammogram done earlier than at the age of 40.
Darrow said men could also get breast cancer.
“It’s not just a woman’s disease,” she said. Digital mammography machines can detect a lump in any size breast, men or women.
Even though the radiation dose of a mammogram is extremely small, if a woman under the age of 30 detects an abnormality in her breast, they may first be scheduled for an ultrasound to determine if a mammogram is necessary. Darrow said while the ultrasound could be used, it is not a replacement for a mammogram. An MRI is also a possible tool in this case for very dense tissue, but due to the cost and time involved, is not a good screening tool for most cases.
“Anything as small as a millimeter can be detected,” said Darrow of what these imaging machines can find.
If there is any hesitation what so ever on getting your first mammogram, both Darrow and Forbes said not to let fear hold you back.
“Mammograms have been proven to save lives,” said Forbes.
Even if you do not have a family history of cancer, she said that is not an excuse to not have a mammogram done.
“Lack of family history is not always a good excuse,” Forbes said.
Darrow added that many women say their first mammogram was not as bad as they originally thought.
“It’s never too late to start (getting a mammogram),” advised Darrow. “Even at the age of 50 or 60.”
JRMC offers mammograms Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and on Saturday every six weeks from 8 a.m. to noon. For scheduling, call 319-481-6369 for an appointment.