Surviving and thriving after breast cancer is all about early detection of the disease. In that respect, radiologists like Dr. Jackie Sweeney, are really on the front lines of the battle against the prevalent disease.
As a radiologist specializing in mammography at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Sweeney is an expert at screening for breast cancer and performing interventional procedures, such as needle biopsies. Like the majority of professionals involved in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, Sweeney stresses the importance of regular mammograms.
But she acknowledges that an announcement last fall by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has left many women confused about when they should start receiving regular mammograms. Last November, the task force announced it was no longer recommending routine screenings for women younger than 50 at low risk of breast cancer and would only recommend screening every two years for low-risk women between the ages of 50 and 74.
Some physicians advocate adhering to the task force’s recommendation, so it’s important to check with your own doctor to discuss what might work best for you. But Sweeney still sides with the recommendations of the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology, which support annual screening mammography and clinical breast exams for all women 40 and older.
"The guidelines released this fall have created controversy, but most major medical groups continue to endorse yearly mammography, beginning at age 40," she says. "High-risk patients are evaluated on an individual basis in reference to starting routine earlier screening. … Screening mammography is still the gold standard to detect early-stage breast cancer."
Studies indicate that one in every 50 woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 50, Sweeney says. In fact, at St. Elizabeth, she says 20-25 percent of new breast cancer diagnoses are in women younger than 50, most often in women with no significant risk factors.
The Advantages of Digital Mammography at St. Elizabeth
For nearly three years now, women receiving mammograms at St. Elizabeth have benefited from state-of-the-art digital imaging technology – a vast improvement over regular film screenings. And when it comes to detecting cancers early and in hard-to-find cases, digital mammography excels, Sweeney says.
"St. Elizabeth is a completely digital program … (and) digital mammography has been shown to be superior to film screens for dense tissue and detection of calcifications, which can be a sign of early breast cancer," she says.
That kind of early detection has been key in changing the statistics about breast cancer survival. In fact, the mortality rate from breast cancer has dropped 30 percent since 1990, due in part to better screening technology like digital mammography. Aside from that service — and the most advanced surgical, radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments — St. Elizabeth also offers a complete team of cancer experts, including:
- Surgical, medical and radiation oncologists
- Medical physicists
- Registered radiation therapists
- Certified oncology nurses
- Social workers
- Registered dietitians
- Pastoral care staff
All these professionals are committed to the idea that top-notch cancer care focuses on treating all patients as the unique individuals they are. Likewise, everyone who comes to St. Elizabeth for breast cancer services can take confidence in the knowledge that they’re receiving the very latest procedures and treatments available to identify and treat the disease from the area’s most skilled professionals, like Sweeney.
If you have questions about any services at St. Elizabeth’s locations throughout Northern Kentucky or just want to schedule a screening mammogram, call St. Elizabeth today at any of the numbers listed. Join the thousands of women who’ve already partnered with St. Elizabeth for lifelong breast health and overall wellness.
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Photo courtesy of St. Elizabeth Healthcare