New technology helps detect early breast cancer

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Rio Grande Regional Hospital has a new piece of equipment to help them detect breast cancer in patients, and they say it’s a game changer for the Valley.

The new 3D graphic mammography system arrived at Rio Grande Regional Hospital around the end of August and one doctor says it’s already made a world of difference.

“Tomosynthesis helps us detect cancers earlier,” said diagnostic radiologist Dr. Vanessa Medina. “So, the smaller cancers are going to be able to be detected at an earlier stage.”

It uses X-rays just like the prior 2D system and the screening process is the same, but what’s different are the images it takes.

“When we obtain tomosynthesis images, it takes different slices at different levels of the breast, so that we get to scroll through it,” Dr. Medina said.

This allows them to see masses, calcifications, and other abnormalities more clearly.

“Women that have dense breast tissue, we’re able to see through that and find abnormalities that we would not be able to see with just a regular 2D mammogram,” Dr. Medina said.

And it’s more accurate the first time around.

“A lot of women have probably experienced having to come back for a mammogram just because there was an abnormality that they thought they saw," Dr. Medina said. "It also decreases a lot of those callbacks.”

However, Dr. Medina is an asset herself. She not only reads the mammogram, but does it all start to finish.

“Something different about the Rio Grande Women’s Imaging Center is that it’s run more like a clinic. Most people never see the person that reads their mammogram.”

Dr. Medina performs biopsies for patients who need one. The one-stop shop is rare in smaller cities, but Dr. Medina wanted to bring this service to her hometown. 

“When I realized that the Valley didn’t even have a breast imaging specialist, that made me even more encouraged to come back and help the women of the Valley," Dr. Medina said. 

All women over the age of 40 are encouraged to get annual mammogram screenings every year, while high risk patients should talk to their doctor about when to begin screenings.


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