Mammograms-Torture Chamber or Helpful

We have all heard it or said it, “in this day and age you would think they would come up with something better than squeezing the breast to find cancer.” While this is logical, currently there is nothing that is more effective and accurate than the current system used for doing mammograms. Here at Windom Area Health, we currently use the Hologic Selenia system which is a 2D system. The newest technology out there is 3D mammography which uses tomography to take several images that a computer processes together to give the radiologist reading the exam the image. The compression in these systems is necessary to hold the breast still, which prevents motion and to aid the in the reduction of radiation produced to make the mammogram image. This is needed with both 2D and 3D mammography. It is not eliminated in either type of imaging. The most important thing to remember is that the compression will be tight but should not be to the point of being unbearable. Another thing to try to remember is to relax when having your exam performed. The tightening or tensing of the muscles is counterproductive and actually goes against the compression device making the compression feel even tighter. I know that it is easy to say “relax” and then expect a patient to do that but if you can come in with the mindset that this will be uncomfortable but not unbearable will make the exam much more tolerable.

There are many things that go on behind the scene to perform mammography at Windom Area Health. All of our technologists that perform mammograms must have specific training in mammography. There is specific initial training and also specific continuing education that we must participate in to ensure that we have the most up to date training that is available. We also must continually perform mammograms and document how many we perform, so when we are inspected every year by the FDA we can show that our staff is trained and competent.

Another component to mammograms is the annual FDA inspection. An inspector from the federal government comes out to review all of our quality control and quality assurance we perform on a daily, weekly and quarterly basis to ensure that our machine is functioning correctly and within the mandated guidelines. They also review all of our staff documentation, which technologists and the radiologists do to interpret the exams, to confirm they meet the necessary requirements for education, training and ongoing performance. We just completed our annual inspection and passed with no violations. If the inspector would find a violation there are different levels of severity. A level one is the most minor one requiring written documentation of a process change that fixes the violation within 30 days. There is no penalty for a level one violation. A level two violation is more severe, it can consist of a repeat level one violation, if you did not fix the violation from the prior year correctly or a different violation that is considered more severe. A level three violation is the most severe and will result in you not being able to perform mammograms until you have corrected the violation and have been re-inspected. We work diligently to ensure that we are always in compliance and performing the mammograms at the highest level possible.

We care about our patients and want them to keep coming back to us. We hope that our patients feel the same way about us. It is a goal of ours that we are constantly trying to improve upon. We are currently hoping to replace our existing 2D machine with a new 3D machine, in the near future. This will allow us to better serve our patients with the latest technology.

Support your health and your local hospital by scheduling your digital mammogram at Windom Area Health today. No physician referral is needed. Appointments can be scheduled Mondays, 1:30 pm-3:30 pm, Tuesday-Thursday 9:30 am-3:30 pm and Fridays 9:30 am- 11:30 am. Call us today at 507-831-0670.

Blog Written By: Valeri Wilkening, Imaging Director

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