October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

September 08, 2008

Digital Mammography at Shore Memorial Hospital

SOMERS POINT—For women, turning 40 is more than jokes from their friends and family about wrinkle cream and getting older. Turning 40 is the beginning of a new stage in most women’s healthcare. It’s the age when doctors begin annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer.

Getting an annual mammogram plays an important role in detecting breast cancer in its early stages, when it is most treatable. In 2007, Shore Memorial Hospital performed more than 3,400 mammograms, making it one of the most trusted institutions for women’s healthcare in the area.

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. It uses very low levels of radiation to look for abnormalities or irregular growths in the breast tissue. Although mammograms do not catch 100 percent of all cancers, they are still a very effective way to catch most cancers.

Shore Memorial uses the GE Stenograph DS, the latest in digital mammography technology. This new technology provides images with more clarity and accuracy, is faster and more versatile than traditional mammography machines and gives physicians the capabilities to see more breast tissue. It also has 30 to 50 percent less radiation exposure to patients.

“The new digital mammography technology available at Shore Memorial, allows us to produce higher quality images of the breast tissue,” says Derek Suragh, administrative director of diagnostic imaging. “These digital images let physicians see suspicious or cancerous tissue with more detail.”

In addition to getting annual mammograms, the Shore Memorial Cancer Center recommends two other options for women to protect themselves against breast cancer. This three-fold approach, which is supported by the American Cancer Society, includes an annual mammogram for women over 40, a clinical breast exam by a doctor or another healthcare provider at least once every three years, and performing breast self exams on a regular basis.

“Early detection is still the best defense against cancer,” says Marge Scanny, cancer community outreach manager at the Shore Memorial Cancer Center. “Mammograms, clinical breast exams and breast self-exams provide a combination of three ways to catch breast cancer in its early stages, giving women a better chance of survival.”

Lack of medical insurance or the cost of a mammogram should not deter women from getting the important cancer screenings they need. Since 1997, Shore Memorial has been the lead agency in Atlantic County for the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection (NJ CEED) program. Through this program, women age 40 and older in Atlantic County who are uninsured or underinsured, and have a limited income, can receive free mammograms. The NJ CEED program also offers free screenings for cervical, colon and prostate cancers.

“This is an exceptional program. Over the past 10 years, we’ve screened more than 3,000 residents. If you are uninsured or underinsured, this program will work in collaboration with many physicians and healthcare agencies in Atlantic County to provide free screenings,” says Scanny.

To schedule a mammogram (doctor’s prescription required), call (609) 926-4SMH. For more information about the NJ CEED program, call (609) 653-3484.