Tag Archives: x-ray

Awareness to Understanding: Ending the Breast Cancer Confusion

Pinktober_pink_october_breast_cancer_awareness.svgOctober is coming to an end and with it an end to another Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How successful was this 2015 month of pink awareness? Perhaps this year more than most, the results were decidedly mixed.


The message that early detection saves lives was out there in many formats and for this we are grateful.


  • If we have been successful in convincing one more woman that screening for breast cancer with yearly mammography can lead to successful treatment and improved survival, we are grateful.


  • If we have educated women to know their biggest risk for breast cancer is being female and getting older, we are grateful.


  • If the message that 75% of women with a new diagnosis of breast cancer will have no high risk factors has been understood, we are grateful.


We are grateful for the focus this month brings to a subject that touches all of our lives.


Tempering our enthusiasm is the concern that the positive messages of this month may have been overshadowed by confusion- confusion created by the new “guidelines” published by the American Cancer Society.  Did we really gain anything more than confusion from a new conflicting and not universally accepted set of guidelines? Here’s where we stand:


  • We stand by the recommendations of the American College of Radiology and direct you to the site: End the Confusion from the Society of Breast Imaging if you have questions.


  • We recommend annual screening mammography starting at age 40 for all women unless you have high risk factors for which screening may start earlier or include other studies like breast MRI.


  • Please note, the American Cancer Society guidelines also support starting screening at age 40 “if they wish to do so.”  We hope you will all wish to do so in order to save the most lives possible.


  • We recommend screening annually because just as science is not yet able to predict who will develop breast cancer, we are also unable to predict the aggressiveness of the cancer. Some grow rapidly, and we have all as breast imagers seen sizable tumors develop in less than 12 months in women of all ages.


And so, as another Halloween approaches, we are grateful for the spotlight of October on breast cancer. Our dream is that one day soon there will no longer be a need for this month of awareness, that breast cancer will no longer be a threat to women’s – and men’s- lives. Together we can get there!


(Image credit: Pinktober pink october breast cancer awareness” by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Dr. Harrison Will Be Taking Your Calls on Dr. Mirabile’s Radio Show!

LH profile picGreat news! Our very own Dr. Linda Harrison will be the guest on Dr. James Mirabile’s radio show tomorrow, July 25th from 1-2p on KCMO Talk Radio (710 AM / 103.7 FM). We’re very excited about this!

Dr. Harrison will be fielding questions from callers and talking about dense breast tissue and – this is important – 3D mammography, the latest advancement in women’s breast health.

Please tune in! Please ask questions! Please have a wonderful weekend and take good care of yourself!

You can listen live here.

Submit your questions online here.

Improving Mammography to 3D Images – No Special Glasses Required

3D-Glasses by xenmate via FlickrTwo years ago, we reported on the emerging technology of 3D mammography. Research since that time has helped to define the benefits and clarify the role of 3D mammography in breast cancer screening.

If you’re wondering how 3D mammography (also called tomosynthesis) works, we have answers. While the machinery will look much like a traditional mammography machine, you will notice a difference when the images are taken. The upper part of the machine will move in an arc while taking several images of the breast tissue. The latest machines approved for 3D mammography can do a 3D study with the same radiation dose as a conventional 2D mammogram, unlike some earlier versions. This is still a mammogram, and yes, compression is still required.

Computers are used to take the digital data obtained from those multiple mini-exposures and convert it into multiple thin, 1 mm or less slices through the breast tissue. The 3D part is done in the radiologist’s head – no special glasses required! The benefit to the radiologist is that the tissue of the breast can be seen without overlap. Think of trying to look through the pages of a book as a whole, versus looking at one page of a book at a time – this is sort of the difference between a 2D mammogram where all the tissue overlaps versus a 3D mammogram where it can be separated.

So what is gained with 3D mammography? There are two important benefits: first, 3D mammography allows the radiologist to find more cancers. Are we excited to find more cancer? No, but… the benefits of early detection are astounding, skyrocketing survival rates. If we can catch cancer early, we can literally save lives. We don’t dance for joy when we discover cancer, but we dance when we know our patient will live.

The other big benefit is the need for fewer work-up studies, especially diagnostic mammograms following a screening study,  because we are able to view the tissue without overlap. The need for additional testing is reduced, thus saving time, cost and anxiety.

While research has shown consistently positive results in the number of cancers found and the reduction in the need for additional testing, the precise role of 3D mammography is still under investigation. Further, most payors are not covering the additional cost of 3D mammography.

More breast cancers are found in women with all breast densities, but those with dense breast tissue will likely benefit the most. Other groups we think will benefit the most include women with a history of breast cancer, family history of breast cancer, women with previous inconclusive mammograms and women with prior breast cysts or lumps.

In short, 3D mammography is proving to be a very valuable tool for breast cancer screening and detection.

(Image credit: 3D-Glasses by xenmate via Flickr. Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

3D Mammography at Diagnostic Imaging Centers with Dr. Linda Harrison

Breast Density: Who Knows? We Do! (And So Should You)

Question Mark by Leo Reynolds via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)As doctors, medical terminology is an integral part of our workday, but we realize not everyone has familiarity with those crazy Latin roots or the phrases that we use and re-use! However, there are some medical words and phrases that it would behoove you to know.

“Breast density” is one such term. Every mammography report includes a statement about it, and all women should have an understanding of what it means. However, according to a new study, nearly half of all women who should be getting mammograms had never heard of breast density. Yikes – there is room for more education here!.

Breast density is not something that can be discovered by a physical breast exam, either your own self-exam or your doctor’s clinical breast exam. Mammography reveals the internal structures of the breast with an image of varying shades of black, gray and white depending on the relative amounts of fat and glandular tissue. Breast density is described on a scale from fatty breasts to dense breasts. A fatty breast is one where most of the tissue has been replaced by fat with the image mostly dark gray. A dense breast on the other hand has mostly glandular tissue and will appear as mostly white. Many breasts fall somewhere in the middle.

Cancers often appear as white on a mammogram, whether a mass or tiny microcalcifications. One of the important reasons you should know about breast density is dense breasts make it harder to find some breast cancers on a mammogram. Simply put, it is harder to find a small white object (a potential cancer) on a background of white seen on a dense mammogram.

The other important reason you should know about your breast density is the small but real increase in the risk of breast cancer in those women with dense breasts. This is on the order of a 3-4% increase.

Here’s what YOU can do:

  • Doctors are only required to disclose if you have dense tissue in a handful of states. If you are not in one of those states you can still find out your breast density from the report or discussion with your doctor and/or radiologist.
  • If you have dense breasts, knowing your other risk factors is important. If this is your only other risk factor for breast cancer (other than being female!), routine annual screening with mammography may be all you need. Getting that mammogram every year is important to assess for changes!
  • If you have other risk factors in addition to dense breasts, supplemental imaging may be a good idea. This can include breast MRI for those with high risk (for example having a mother or sister with premenopausal breast or ovarian cancer) or breast ultrasound if intermediate in risk.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. And knowing if you have dense breasts (and what to do about it) can save your life – that’s really powerful!

(Image credit: Question Mark by Leo Reynolds via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

Breast Cancer: No Room at the Inn

No vancancy. by A National Acrobat via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)Mold loves a musty basement, mosquitoes like standing water and certain bacteria love improperly cooked meats. Given the “right” environment, these buggers flourish. Conversely, if their environments become inhospitable, they don’t live long.

This simple truth got scientists thinking: Is it true for cancer as well? Recently published research in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) suggests that local environment can similarly influence tumor growth.

Breast and prostate cancers were tested in lab mice who were given chemotherapy and two conditions: a sedentary life or one with an exercise wheel. The mice who exercised fared better.

Here’s how: cancer cells (such as breast and prostate) thrive in areas of hypoxia, or low oxygen. That’s their sweet spot. With exercise comes greater oxygen into the tissues of the body and into the tumors. Improvement in number of blood vessels and smaller areas of poor perfusion or hypoxia were seen in the active mice.

So, score one more for exercise! Not only does it reduce the risk of breast cancer, but it may make tumor growth more difficult. Not a bad side effect for something good for your overall health.

(Image credit: No vacancy. by A National Acrobat via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

232,000 Breast Cancer Survivors. Wow. How?

Aviodrome Lelystad Airport 09-08-05 by ArchAngel12 via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The statistics for breast cancer get a little overwhelming and hard to appreciate. Two hundred thirty two thousand is the estimated number of women with a new breast cancer diagnosis last year – 232,000 more survivors in just one year. The more familiar statistic of a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in your lifetime is fairly well known – and this applies even if you have no family history of breast cancer.

This is (for the time being) the reality. However, here’s the good news: early detection saves lives – LOTS of lives. Before a cancer can be seen or felt, it can often be detected by mammography. Thus far, mammography and improved breast cancer treatments have raised the breast cancer survival rate up to 98%. Those new breast cancer survivors last year have the best odds yet of beating their disease.

Because 232,000 is a huge number, here are some ways to imagine it:…..

We could fill Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium (go Royals!) more than 6 times over with survivors. The new breast cancer survivors could fill the city of Reno, Nevada. We could load 632 jumbo jets with survivors (and wouldn’t THAT be a party!).

Aside from figuring out the logistics of how to cram 632 jets full of people who are conquering their breast cancer, there’s a bigger question:

What does it take to ensure 232,000 is just the beginning? It takes a team. A team dedicated to treating every patient so that they have the best chance of beating the disease. And a team dedicated to finding breast cancers when they are most treatable.

Early detection happens with an effort by you and the rest of your health care team. First, know thyself. Performing monthly self-exams helps you know what’s a slight bumpiness from what’s a new lump. Observing your body for physical changes (rashes, dimpling, aching, etc.) is helpful – tell your doctor about ANY change! There are annual clinical exams by your doctor or healthcare practitioner starting at age 20. Every woman over the age of 40 (or earlier if at high risk) should have an annual mammogram.

Mammograms see into the breast tissue – beyond what can be felt or found even by a careful clinical breast exam. Mammograms are an incredibly powerful tool that allows us, your radiologist, to inspect the structures of the breast to identify good health… and even find bad news. But remember, bad news caught sooner is better than bad news later. The earlier the stage of breast cancer, the better the chances of survival. And the less intense the treatment.

So, until we can figure out how to prevent those 232,000 women from getting breast cancer in the first place, let’s fill more jets, more stadiums, more races for the cure, and more homes with wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends who are survivors. Let’s conquer breast cancer!



(Image credit: Aviodrome Lelystad Airport 09-08-05 by ArchAngel12 via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))



Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health at www.mammographykc.com and general radiology at www.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!

3D Mammography Is HERE!


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: The Story of Eve

o hai! by harold.lloyd via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)One cold December day, I sat with my patient – let’s call her Eve – and found the words “we failed her” running circles around my thoughts. Not a few moments before, her mammogram came to light on the screen in my dark room and I saw our failure, plain as could be: she had breast cancer. After hearing her story, I was painfully aware that we as a medical community, as friends and family, as fellow women and warriors had failed her.


Hers was a cancer you could see from across the room. This was no subtle case requiring expert eyes or expert imaging. This was a large breast mass she could feel with her bare hands, nearly replacing her whole right breast. She had felt it for over 9 months, probably longer.


Why did Eve not immediately seek help when she first noticed something was wrong? What kept her from getting imaging earlier when the mass would have been more easily treated, less likely to have spread? Here’s where we failed: fear and lack of knowledge of resources in our community kept Eve from seeking the help that could have spared her the course she now faced in trying to save her life.


I think of Eve whenever October comes around – Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There’s so much information, so many lives touched, yet still not enough to change Eve’s course. There’s still not enough information out there to bring her to her doctor early, to let her know there are resources even when you feel there are none.  I vowed after I sat listening to her story and discussing her results that I would never take October for granted, would do everything in my power to make sure we don’t fail again.


So let’s spread the news:


  • Anyone can get breast cancer: if you have breasts, you are at risk.
  • If you feel something in your breast and it stays around for a month, see your doctor – and don’t delay.
  • Most lumps are NOT cancer – but there is no way to tell without getting it checked out!
  • No family history, so feeling like screening is not for you? Remember 75% of women with  breast cancer have no other risk than being female!
  • What can help – our best defense against breast cancer is early detection:
    • Early detection saves lives! Annual screening mammograms starting at age 40 if you are average risk and monthly self-exams starting at age 20 are key. Clinical breast exams starting at age 20 are also a key part in early detection as mammography does not catch all breast cancers.
    • Knowing the signs and symptoms to look for is invaluable. Look of more than just lumps – skin changes such as puckering and nipple changes like inversion or change in color are important findings.
    • If something seems wrong with how your breasts look or feel, have it checked out!
    • Breast ultrasound and breast MRI may be additional imaging means of screening in some women, especially those with dense breasts and those with a history of breast or other cancers (ovarian and colon in particular) in their families.
  • Resources are available!

So this October in memory of Eve, we ask you to spread the news. Get your annual mammogram, see your doctor each year and do a monthly self breast examination.  Spread the word to those women you know and love.


As doctors who specialize in women’s health, we are in a position to know, to support, to DO SOMETHING and yet… we can always do more, and we won’t stop until there are no more who become like Eve…

(Image credit: o hai! by harold.lloyd via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health at www.mammographykc.com and general radiology at www.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!


The Month’s Almost Over But the Fight Isn’t Won (YET)!

Princess Pumpkin by peapodsquadmom via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)Halloween is coming… which means National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is nearing it’s end! You know what’s not over (yet)? The fight against breast cancer! And there are some things we all can do…


  • If you didn’t make it in for your annual screening mammogram on National Mammography Day, why not take care of yourself today? Find a clinic with walk-in appointments and immediate results to reduce stress and wait times.


  • If you DID make it in for your annual screening exam, shout it from the rooftops! Use it as an opportunity to tell your loved ones that now is the time they can make a difference in their own course of health.


  • Use your social media channels: Tweet it, Facebook it, tag it: #BCAM.


  • Offer to take a nervous friend in for their exam. Remind them that it’s only 10 seconds of compression. Hold their hands, give them hugs or just take them out for a treat afterwards!


Remember, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 69 seconds – but early detection saves lives! Screenings can make all the difference, starting with YOU.



(Image credit: Princess Pumpkin by peapodsquadmom via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))



Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health at www.mammographykc.com and general radiology at www.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!