By Laura Freeman
For women who went for their first mammogram during the early days of the screening technology, it’s an experience they will probably never forget—especially if they made the mistake of scheduling it when tissue was tender.
The tight, pinching squeeze made it a painful topic of conversation for women comparing notes and a subject of dread for their younger sisters. Though women tend to be better at following through with health screenings, the temptation to avoid or delay the appointment card for this annual ordeal seems to be all too common.
”Far too many women around the world are still dying from breast cancer they likely could have survived if it had been detected earlier,” David Georges of Koning Corporation said. “In some places the issue is access. In others, it’s avoidance. They may have had a bad experience with painful compression during a mammogram or have heard too many stories that made them afraid.
“Our goals through the years of work designing the Koning Vera dedicated breast CT were to eliminate uncomfortable compression, enhance the accuracy of 3D imaging and bring radiation down to the same level as a mammogram. We have achieved those goals and received FDA approval to roll out the new technology. Brookwood Baptist Medical Center contacted us early about their interest in the potential offered by the new breast CT. They will be the first in Alabama to have the Koning Vera installed and operational.”
Brookwood Baptist Health CEO Jeremy Clark said, “We’re thrilled to be the first hospital in the state to partner with Koning in bringing this innovative piece of technology to our medical center and the patients we serve. Having the ability to detect cancers earlier and faster will help us save lives. We anticipate that the system will be installed and we’ll be ready to begin scheduling patient appointments in January.”
The Koning Vera breast CT is more compact and faster than full body CTs. It is designed specifically for the breast to work with gravity. The patient simply lies on her stomach with the first breast suspended comfortably through the table opening. In just seven seconds, the imaging camera circles the breast gathering 3-D information from every angle. Then the patient slips over to suspend the second breast for imaging and in only seven more seconds, the procedure is finished.
“Since it is so fast and simple, the system can take care of a large number of patients quickly so no one should have to spend a long time waiting,” Georges said. “Positing the patient correctly can be learned quickly. Imaging techs don’t have to deal with the challenges in getting clear mammograms in women who are anatomically difficult to position.
“For example, smaller, denser breasts are often found in younger women who may have family links to breast cancer and need screening earlier. It can be difficult to get all breast tissue between the plates so the entire breast can be screened. The same is true on the opposite end of the spectrum. Women with large breasts or implants may require more mammogram images, which expose them to more radiation.
“The Koning Vera CT allows large breasts and small breasts to be suspended and imaged the same as average size breasts. The entire breast can be seen and radiologists can view what is going on within the tissue from any angle.”
Another advantage of the breast CT is that it can be used with or without contrast dye. If a physician suspects symptoms or a patient’s family history or genetic background is troubling, the physician can order the CT with contrast dye to pick up early signs of changes.
With dye, the breast CT delivers enough data that a radiologist can make a recommendation to quickly begin treatment or schedule a biopsy to confirm the need for immediate surgery.
Unlike some new technologies, the breast CT is finding insurance companies to be welcoming once they understand its potential to not only save lives, but also save money.
“A stage one or two malignancy is usually far less expensive to treat than a stage four cancer,” Georges said. “In patients at high risk and those who have an anatomy that tends to be difficult for a mammogram to give definitive answers, it can be less expensive to start with a breast CT than a mammogram and a call back for another, plus an echo and then a CT. It is definitely less expensive than a breast MRI.”
The ability to get a good answer the first time around is also valuable to patients in a way that someone who has never had to wait through the nerve wracking scare of being called back for a follow up to a questionable mammogram can fully appreciate.
“For patients, peace of mind really matters.” Georges said.