Technology at a Virginia facility that detects breast cancer earlier

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – While any cancer diagnosis is undeniably terrifying, advances in technology are significantly reducing the mortality rate for breast cancer patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of women dying from breast cancer has decreased by 40% since 1989.

This is partly due to advances in early detection technology, some of which exist in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

“I am very impressed with the new technology,” said Dr. Benjamin Pettus, radiologist at Riverside Diagnostic Center.

Riverside’s Siemens Heathineers 3-D mammography technology is coming to Hampton Roads from Germany. dr Pettus said the device creates a brighter future for those diagnosed with breast cancer because it finds clumps of cancer cells just 5 millimeters long. That’s smaller than the size of a dime.

“The average mammogram was typically 10 to 15 millimeters,” said Dr. pettus “We’ll probably halve that again. So it’s pretty impressive. I have a whole list of cases that I’m amazed I can’t even find on the 2D [technology] but on the 3D you can find it early.”

Early detection of cancer using this technology has saved the lives of hundreds of survivors, including Linda Easley-Fulton.

“I couldn’t die, there were so many things I wanted to do,” Linda said. “Because my breast cancer was detected early, the cancer remained in the breast tissue. This allowed for less aggressive treatment options.”

Finding cancer before it spreads, said Dr. Pettus, is the difference between life and death.

“If people wait until they find something on a physical exam, there’s a significantly higher chance that it’s already spread to lymph nodes and may have metastasized,” he explained. “So it means significantly a decrease in mortality, basically a better life, less treatment, a better outcome.

dr Pettus said these technological advances have also allowed women to beat the disease without having to undergo a mastectomy.

“It’s basically turning cancer from a really scary, aggressive disease into an essentially curable situation,” he said.

And that’s exactly what happened to Linda, allowing her to celebrate her birthday just weeks after surgery in Vegas.

“I had surgery on April 18th. The second week of June I was on a family vacation in Las Vegas, living my best life and having fun,” she explained. “And I’ve since married.”

But Linda said it wouldn’t have been possible if she hadn’t discovered early on that she had cancer.

“While there is fear and concern about breast cancer screening, a mammogram is one of the best options for early detection, and the earlier the stage, the better the chance of survival,” Linda said. “And in this fight against breast cancer, we are stronger and braver than we think.”

dr Pettus recommended starting annual mammograms at age 40. He recommends starting at age 35, or earlier if you have immediate relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.


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