New breast cancer diagnosis option at Cedar City Hospital

By Kelsey Keener

CEDAR CITY—A recently acquired tomosynthesis machine will allow radiologists at Cedar City Hospital to detect breast cancer more quickly and more accurately.

Tomosynthesis, sometimes referred to as a three-dimensional mammogram, is an advanced breast imaging system that takes multiple images of different areas of a breast. This new technology will allow hospital to detect breast cancer up to a year and a half earlier than traditional mammography, and with more accuracy. This is will also reduce the number of patients who need to be called back for additional imaging, as well as the need for invasive treatments of breast cancer.

Radiologist Troy Stonely said tomosynthesis allows him to look at one area of the breast at a time, rather than only one image.

“Because there’s multiple images and because there’s an arc to it, they can reconstruct it and emphasize a layer at a time,” he said.

Mammography Team Lead Kim Hopkins compared the differences between tomosynthesis and traditional mammography to a book.

“Our (two-dimensional) machine would just take four images and they kind of describe it as a closed book,” she said. “With the new machine, it’s like they can now open the book and flip the pages and read the book. It just gives a much clearer view.”

Ancillary Services Manager Darin Day said the new machine was funded by the community.

“This is very expensive, but we only have a set amount of money in the hospital to be able to fund these projects,” Day said. “This has been an unusual project whereas we have gone and asked for funds from our foundation to help us to pay for it. So really this belongs to the community, because the community has donated much of the money to be able to bring this to Cedar City.”

He also said the technology is very advanced.

“We’ve had mammography for years, but this is the latest and greatest hardware and software that you can get,” he said. “There’s a lot of facilities that don’t even have this tomosynthesis, and for a community our size to get this technology early on, to be able to start providing that service for our community is just a great asset.”

Hopkins agreed that this machine is a great asset to Cedar City.

“To have this in Cedar City, it’s an amazing thing,” she said. “We have got the best machine available for our ladies in this community.”

The new machine did require Hopkins and her team, as well as radiologists, to go through additional training in order to learn how to operate the imaging system and analyze the images accurately. With the addition of this machine to the hospital, as well as an ultrasound system with features tailored to women’s healthcare, there will be also be less need for patients to travel to other hospitals for additional imaging or follow up care.

Day said Utah, and particularly Iron County, rank among the lowest in the United States when it comes to regular screenings, and that there are many factors that could lead to cancer.

“For some reason, something will trigger that cell, that mutated gene in the body, and then you’ve got cancer,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important that we have the screenings.”

Hopkins said a woman’s risk of cancer increases as she ages, but there is a high success rate with removing breast cancer if it caught early enough.

“It’s hard to see women that haven’t come in for 5 or 6 years and now they’re feeling a lump and we look at the images and we know that’s probably a breast cancer,” she said. “If they had come in years earlier, their outcome would’ve been a lot better.”

Mammography Patient Navigator Linda Keck said there are options out there for women who may not have insurance to cover regular screenings and follow up care.

“A lot of women don’t come in to get their screening mammograms because they don’t have insurance,” she said. “So, what I do is put that patient in touch with Salt Lake, the Utah Cancer Control Program, and they can pay for screening mammograms and anything that comes after that, whether it’s a biopsy or an ultrasound or whatever.”


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