Hospital seeks cutting-edge 3-D mammography unit

Photo courtesy of Hologic

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has focused its fundraising efforts in the final months of 2014 toward amassing roughly $400,000 for the purchase of a cutting-edge, 3-D mammography unit called a Selenia Dimensions Mammography System. Manufactured by Bedford-based Hologic, the unit utilizes digital tomosynthesis, an FDA-approved x-ray technology able to create images of breast tissue that are of much higher resolution than traditional, two-dimensional mammography images.

Jim Culley, Hologic’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications, wrote in an email to the Times that 3-D mammography finds invasive, or harmful, cancers earlier, when they are easiest to treat.

The largest clinical study done to date on Hologic 3-D mammography was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on June 25. Led by Dr. Sarah M. Friedewald of the Caldwell Breast Center at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, the study found that screening by means of digital breast tomosynthesis or 3-D mammograms detects 41 percent more invasive cancers than traditional mammograms. The study also found a reduction in the number of woman called back for further testing due to false alarms, a result that should reduce costs and patient anxiety.

A multitude of hospitals, universities, and health care organizations participated in the study. Notable among them were Massachusetts General Hospital; the Yale University School of Medicine; University Hospital’s Case Medical Center in Ohio; the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, and the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania. Massachusetts General Hospital, the Harvard teaching hospital closely affiliated with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, also happens to have performed the first clinical 3-D mammogram exam in the United States, back in 2011.

The experience of undergoing an annual breast exam with the Selenia Dimensions Mammography System is similar to having a conventional mammogram, said Hologic’s Jim Culley. “Women will see little difference between a conventional 2D mammogram and a 3D mammogram. The exam takes just a few seconds longer, and the positioning is the same. The real difference is in the information available to the doctor.”
The exam is conducted by a mammography technologist who works under the direction of a radiologist. During the exam, numerous cross-sectional images are taken by a slowly arcing x-ray arm. Then a computer sandwiches the images together in much the same manner by which the layers of a traditional CT scan are assembled. Almost instantly, an interior view of the breast is ready for interpretation by the radiologist. The clarity of the image affords the radiologist the ability to detect anomalies that are especially small or obscured.
Three-dimensional mammography delivers a higher dose of ionizing radiation compared with conventional mammograms. However, the dosage has been declared safe by the FDA and in fact falls well below government safety standards. Nevertheless, Hologic introduced FDA-approved software in 2013 to reduce the dosage to levels to be on par with traditional mammography.
In a press release, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital noted that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women and that current statistics indicate one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes. If detected early, the release states, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer patients is 98 percent.
“This is a great opportunity to make a real leap in our standard of care at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and a chance for individuals to make a real difference in the health of their community,” said Rachel Vanderhoop, the hospital’s director of development in an email to The Times. “A gift of any size, made directly to support 3D mammography, will help to get us there.”
For those interested in donating to help Martha’s Vineyard Hospital purchase the three-dimensional mammography unit, checks may be mailed to MVH Development, PO Box 1477, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557 (indicate that you wish to dedicate the funds to the mammography unit in the memo) or funds may be give online: (indicate you wish to dedicate the funds in the comment section).
For more information about the three-dimensional mammography unit visit: