Who’s Reading Your Mammogram?
Make sure you have the best team behind you when it comes to your health and future.
The Women’s Imaging Center is committed to providing individualized, innovative, state-of-the-art health care to women. Learn how one woman’s experience might change your outlook on who to turn to for your next mammogram, and why experience matters.
“I have always considered getting a mammogram a preventive routine thing to do,” says Ruth Papavassiliou. “Then, a dear friend of mine passed away from breast cancer. It was a very tragic loss… she left behind her very small child and loving husband. In one respect, one might think, this will never happen to me. Then something hits close and shakes what I call a false reality.”
Ruth recalls her first experience of being told she had an abnormal mammogram.
Fifteen years ago, Ruth remembers being told by the hospital mammography center, “they thought they saw something in one of my breasts, I would need an ultrasound, and maybe a biopsy. Then, they told me instead that they just wanted to see me every three months.”
As Ruth reflects on her experience back then, the anxiety of not knowing and being watched for months without action was extremely stressful. Was there was a real finding or was it a false alarm? Did she need a biopsy or not? Why did they say she needed one, but then changed their course of action? Would the same radiologist follow her and be making that important decision, or would it be someone different every time?
“My mind would wander to ‘what if?’” says Ruth. “Then, my stress and anxiety would heighten. I told myself, ‘I am getting ahead of myself and we don’t really know what this is yet’”.
At this point, Ruth decided to stop taking uncertain recommendations and start asking the questions to find answers. She made a conscious decision to become proactive in her own health.
Ruth asked her doctor for another recommendation, and sought out The Women’s Imaging Center. Ruth said, “I was treated like a VIP, like I was the only patient there. They were very caring and related to me authentically, in a knowledgeable and professional manner.” Ruth was greatly relieved to learn the finding on her mammogram from the other facility turned out to be a benign cyst.
As specialists in breast imaging for over twenty five years, Dr. Kelly McAleese and her colleagues Dr. Timothy Colt and Dr. John Lewin take the anxiety out of breast imaging. Whether it is a screening mammogram, a diagnostic work-up, an ultrasound, MRI or even a biopsy—they consider it a privilege to participate in the care of all of their patients.
Continuity of care and experience of the radiologist are important factors in finding subtle changes early.
The team at The Women’s Imaging Center doesn’t just “read” a mammogram. They interpret the study in front of them and then compare the images to multiple previous exams side by side. “Patients typically have the same radiologist reading their exam or seeing them in the clinic year after year,” Dr. McAleese says. “When our patient has an abnormal mammogram or a breast complaint, we meet with her and review the findings so she can see what we are seeing and have the opportunity to ask questions. It’s the unknown that is the scariest part. Information is empowering, so we provide our patients with information in understandable terms and make sure all of their questions and concerns are addressed.”
Ruth continued to have normal mammograms for several years after her first visit to The Women’s Imaging Center, until there was another bump in the road—a subtle change in her screening mammogram was noted.
“I was getting used to the ‘all clear letter’ when I learned I needed to return for a follow up appointment,” explains Ruth.
However, Ruth was in a familiar clinic now, where she saw the same technologists and radiologist year after year and was recognized on a personal level. She felt safe, comfortable, and confident with her care at The Women’s Imaging Center. The expertise of her team would be important one more time for Ruth.
Ruth says of The Women’s Imaging Center, “Their process supports the patient from when you first step in the door until their services are completed. When I arrived for my appointment, I needed an additional mammogram and then met with the radiologist for an ultrasound. Dr. McAleese showed me on the ultrasound the area in question and then told me she recommended a small needle biopsy for diagnosis.”
“My stress and anxiety heightened, but when I am anxious about something, I tell myself to start taking slow, deep breaths and put one foot in front of the other, and stay in present moment awareness. I have trained myself to ask: what is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I came back for the needle biopsy, with continued VIP treatment along the way. Everyone made me feel comfortable both physically and emotionally.”
“The biopsy was performed and the very next day I learned my results were atypical and I would need to see a surgeon to have the abnormal cells removed.”
Ruth met with the surgeon recommended by her referring physician and The Women’s Imaging Center. “The transition extended seamlessly from imaging to biopsy to surgery.” Ruth’s surgeon had already been informed of the imaging and pathology as both specialists discussed the important details of her care. Ruth underwent a small surgical procedure, the atypical cells were removed, and no further treatment was needed.
Over the years, Ruth has developed and refined her own stress management skills. She offers advice for other women, and says, “The key is focus on yourself, there are many things that can help when going through this, such as meditation, massage, slowing down life where you can, being with nature, enjoying good friends, even a good counselor/body centered therapy can be helpful,” says Ruth.
Ruth’s story has a very happy ending. She did everything right.
- She was proactive in getting regular screening mammograms.
- She made sure her mammogram was read by the same breast specialist radiologist.
- She returned for her recommended diagnostic work up.
- She met with her radiologist to go over her results and recommendations.
- She connected with the recommended breast surgeon and ultimately had the abnormal cells removed with an out-patient procedure and is now fully recovered.
Dr. McAleese notes, “If all my patients were as proactive as Ruth, we may be preventing more cancers or finding them earlier.”
The Women’s Imaging Center is committed to administering individualized care to all of our patients. We provide imaging services which include screening and diagnostic mammography, breast and body ultrasound, breast and body MRI, and image-guided procedures at multiple locations throughout the Greater Denver area. To schedule an exam at one of our offices or to request more information please visit our website, www.thewomensimagingcenter.com or call (303) 321-CARE.