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Finding breast cancer early

Radiologic technologist Paula Andersen poses with the Selenia Dimensions digital mammography machine at Westfields Hospital. The machine was added to the hospital earlier this year and is a key tool in finding breast cancer early. (Photo by Micheal Foley)1 / 2
Radiologic technologist Paula Andersen views an image of her breast captured using the new digital mammography machine at Westfields Hospital. The machine is able to shoot images at a 7.5-degree angle each way for an image that rotates up to 15 degrees. (Photo by Micheal Foley)2 / 2

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and there’s no escaping the reminders.

Pink ribbons and pink clothing are everywhere, including on athletes at every level from the NFL down to the New Richmond Tigers.

But awareness is only part of the battle against cancer, and the Cancer Center of Western Wisconsin, attached to Westfields Hospital in New Richmond, is doing its part in screening, diagnosing and treating breast cancer as well.

A big weapon in that battle is the new digital mammography machine, which the center began using earlier this year.

“We’re able to do imaging of the breasts two different ways now,” said radiologic technologist Paula Andersen. “We can do something called two-dimensional mammography, which is the way we’ve done it for years. The new technology we can do is called breast tomosynthesis.”

The top of the machine moves to capture images at a 7.5-degree angle each way to create an image that rotates up to 15 degrees.

“It takes angled pictures of the breast and the computer software can reprocess it into 1-millimeter slices through the breast like a loaf of bread,” Andersen said. “The breast is a three-dimensional object, and before we would just do a two-dimensional image of it.”

Andersen said the new machine has reduced the number of people who need to be called back for additional imaging.

There is no additional charge to be screened with the new technology, according to Andersen.

“We didn’t want it to be an elite test,” Andersen said. “Some people have a choice of whether to get their groceries that week or a new fancy mammogram. They made it the same price whether you’re paying out of pocket or have insurance.”

Gary Shapiro, medical director of the Cancer Center, says the digital mammography machine, which is typically only found in larger regional hospitals, is just one example of how the Cancer Center of Western Wisconsin offers top-notch care for its patients close to home.

The center offers cancer care in Amery, Baldwin, Hudson, New Richmond, Osceola and St. Croix Falls.

“The model of the Cancer Center of Western Wisconsin is one that we’re not aware of existing anywhere else in the country,” Shapiro said. “With modern technology, we’re able to present a decentralized system so people can get care very close to home.”

Micheal Foley
Micheal Foley worked at RiverTown Multimedia from July 2013 to June 2015 as editor at the New Richmond News. 
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