Corporate Achievement in Health Care: Columbia St. Mary’s

Health Care Heroes

Team photo: (standing) Irina Charles, RTRM, mammography technologist; Patrick McWey, MD., medical director, Women’s Imaging. Sitting: Wendy Jo DeValk, RTRM, mammography technologist; Betsy Kanthak, RTRM, mammography technologist; and John Steinbrenner, director, Medical Imaging.

Corporate Achievement in Health Care: Columbia St. Mary’s
Team photo: (standing) Irina Charles, RTRM, mammography technologist; Patrick McWey, MD., medical director, Women’s Imaging. Sitting: Wendy Jo DeValk, RTRM, mammography technologist; Betsy Kanthak, RTRM, mammography technologist; and John Steinbrenner, director, Medical Imaging.

Team photo: (standing) Irina Charles, RTRM, mammography technologist; Patrick McWey, MD., medical director, Women’s Imaging. Sitting: Wendy Jo DeValk, RTRM, mammography technologist; Betsy Kanthak, RTRM, mammography technologist; and John Steinbrenner, director, Medical Imaging.
Team photo: (standing) Irina Charles, RTRM, mammography technologist; Patrick McWey, MD., medical director, Women’s Imaging. Sitting: Wendy Jo DeValk, RTRM, mammography technologist; Betsy Kanthak, RTRM, mammography technologist; and John Steinbrenner, director, Medical Imaging.

Columbia St. Mary’s has been making a difference in the health and lives of people in the community for more than 150 years. Today, the organization remains committed to that mission through its expansive and innovative approach to more effective breast cancer screenings and services for women.

Columbia St. Mary’s is the only health care system in the region to provide 3D mammography services at no extra cost to the patient. The technology is new, expensive and not covered by many insurance plans.

More than 230,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually in the United States. Mammography screening is vital to preventing, detecting and treating breast cancer. The 3D breast cancer screening is one of the biggest advances in breast screening in 40 years.

According to Dr. Alysandra Lal, medical director of the Breast Cancer Program at Columbia St. Mary’s, the 3D mammography offers better detection than conventional mammograms.

“Instead of just taking a picture from the top down and from the sides, the camera moves and takes many pictures in a rotation,” Lal said. “The rotational view spreads everything out and allows you to really see the layers.”

Unlike a conventional digital mammogram that takes one flat image of the breast, a 3D mammogram takes multiple pictures in one-millimeter slices to create a series of 3D images.

The examiner has the ability to scroll through each of these images to better detect a small cancer that could be hiding between overlapping breast tissue, Lal said.

The technology eliminates 40 percent of false positives, and decreases call-backs for additional testing by more than 100 women each month.

More importantly, the technology saves lives by detecting breast cancer sooner, when it’s in its most treatable stages.

Breast cancer is not only the most common cancer among Wisconsin women, but it is also part of a major health disparity among underserved women in Milwaukee.

Columbia St. Mary’s installed 3D mammography technology in all seven of its breast screening locations, including its Mammography Coach, which serves at-risk women in their own neighborhoods.

The hospital’s outreach, in partnership with Susan G. Komen Southeast Wisconsin, is on track to screen more than 800 underserved women in southeastern Wisconsin this year.

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