When it comes cutting edge medical technology. Seattle is usually at the forefront. But these days, some women are heading west instead to Poulsbo for the latest breakthrough in mammograms: digital 3D.
The word is getting out.
"We had one patient come from the Philippines," said Radiologist Manfred Henne of InHealth Imaging in Poulsbo.
The attraction is 3D mammography. Dr. Henne is so sold on the new technology, he wanted to be among the first anywhere to offer it.
"It's not just a gimmick. It's a major, major advancement in mammography," he said.
Carrie Goller wanted to be among the first to get the new scan. Nine years ago, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer that was hard to detect on a standard mammogram. Dr. Henne was the radiologist who found the cancer.
"The calcifications were extremely small and you had to use your magnifying glass and then even then they are really difficult to see," he said, showing us Carrie's mammogram from 2002.
The new 3D technology eliminates the guesswork by taking a series of low dose images. Then the computer builds one-millimeter slices into a 3D composite. The radiologist can then scroll through and see each slice separately instead looking at a compressed image which may obscure the view.
"The cancers are not always very obvious, especially the early cancers," said Dr. Henne.
The computer can even highlight suspicious areas and then magnify them electronically.
"We want the best tools to diagnose these cancers early because that saves patients lives," said Dr. Henne.
The new technology is not without controversy since it does expose the patient to higher levels of radiation than a standard mammogram.
"It's a little higher because more images are being acquired, but overall the exposure is probably less because we don't have as many re-dos or recalls. So in the long run, the patient may actually save some radiation exposure," said Dr. Henne.
Dr. Henne says women with dense breast are especially good candidates, but that any patient can benefit .
Carrie's diagnosis provided the epiphany for her to quit her job become a full-time artist. Some of her paintings are now display at InHealth Imaging, or you can view them here.
For those who don't want to travel to Poulsbo, 3D mammograms are also available at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland.