Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital now offers 3-D mammograms in a “spa-like” setting, a hospital official said this week.
The hospital had General Electric equipment installed in December and began offering 3-D mammograms in April, according to Sheri Holub, director of imaging services.
“The image quality is very good. It’s compatible with our system for interpretation and they offered us a sensory suite, which has a spa-like feel,” she said. “We ran it for just 2-D to replace the existing machine and while we were (remodeling) our room.”
Some patients want to continue with 2-D, Holub continued, because 3-D is still not covered by all insurance providers. Medicare, however, does cover the 3-D imaging.
The 3-D mammograms are better for detecting breast cancer and also reduce misleading images that can lead to repeat tests or false positives, said Dr. Annabel Galva, radiologist and head of mammography at Jennie.
The new machine takes multiple images — usually 50 to 100 — that give the radiologist views of the breast in layers. Because of the additional images, a 3-D mammogram takes a little longer — about seven seconds instead of a fraction of a second.
“It’s going to become the standard around the country,” she said.
Galva had previous experience with 3-D mammography through her radiology group, Diagnostic Radiology PC., Holub said.
“Dr. Galva has been reading 3-D much longer than we have had it, because the group she’s in reads for several health systems,” she said.
Detection is 11 percent to 15 percent better with 3-D than with 2-D, and the average rate of repeat tests is reduced by 40 percent, Galva said. She said the emotional burden on the patient is one of the biggest criticisms of mammography, so reducing the recall rate is a big advantage.
The average recall rate with 2-D mammograms is about 10 percent, Galva said.
“With 3-D, we are decreasing the rate to 7 or 8 percent,” she said.
Overlapping tissue in 2-D mammography can give a false impression, Galva said. It can make it appear as if there is a lump — or hide a lump that is present.
When a patient is called back after a 3-D mammogram, they can often skip the second mammogram and go right to an ultrasound, she said. The ultrasound helps doctors determine the composition of a lump or lesion and does not expose the patient to additional radiation.
When 3-D mammography was introduced in 2011, many thought it would only be useful for testing women with dense breast tissue, Galva said. But studies have shown that it also improves the success rate for women with other kinds of breast tissue.
“The majority of the patients will benefit,” she said.
Patients seem to appreciate the change of atmosphere created by the new sensory suite, Holub said.
“We’ve had a majority of patients say they had a better experience with the 3-D, partly because of the room’s design, compared to the 2-D,” she said. “The more relaxed the patient can be, the more comforting you can be, the better the exam’s going to be — regardless of technology.”
The suite offers sight via two 40-inch monitors, as well as sound and scents to create a “calming environment,” Holub said.
“The monitors display a seaside, mountains, garden of flowers,” she said. “There is an aroma dispenser to ensure a constant clean ambience. There is also the sound of waterfalls and birds as the images change.”
Being surrounded by the sights, sounds and aromas of nature changes the experience for patients, Holub said.
“It is no longer a cold exam room, it is a warm and welcoming exam suite,” she said.
The suite is getting a lot of use, Holub said.
“We are scheduled approximately two months in advance,” she said.
The hospital is considering extending the hours for mammograms to shorten the wait time, she said.