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New machine performs imaging and biopsy

Photos by Matt Haas

January 2016

Dr. Lynn Mastey

Breast tomosythesis, or 3-D mammography, was approved by the FDA in early 2011. Statistics show that this technology, in the five years since its inception, has increased detection of invasive cancers compared with 2-D mammography by up to 40 percent. However, not until recently have doctors been able to perform a mammography and biopsy at the same time, using the same piece of equipment.

Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare is the first health care system in the state to use the new Affirm breast biopsy guidance system. In conjunction with mammography diagnostic imaging, Affirm allows radiologists to easily locate and focus on regions of the breast for immediate biopsy.

"The major benefit is that it allows us to target and biopsy abnormalities in the breast that are only seen with 3-D mammography," says Dr. Lynn Mastey, a radiologist affiliated with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.

Without Affirm, abnormalities found using 3-D mammography have to be located again with either ultrasound or an MRI and then biopsied. It requires extra, lengthier procedures with no guaranteed results. Affirm simply attaches to the imaging equipment, allowing doctors to perform a biopsy following a mammogram.

Marci Riley, 63, of Oak Creek had two masses removed from one of her breasts last year. After one of the masses was detected and biopsied using older technology, doctors noticed another mass. The new Affirm technology was used to biopsy the second mass before it had time to grow.

"Because it was so small, that was the best. Thank God the equipment was there," says Riley. "If they wouldn’t have been able to use the new technology, they probably just would have marked it, and three years from now I might be having surgery again because it could have turned into cancer," she adds.

Another benefit of the new technology is it allows women to sit upright in a chair when getting the procedure instead of lying on their stomachs or in other uncomfortable positions, sometimes for 30 minutes or longer.

"What used to be at least a half-hour procedure we’ve gotten down to on average about seven to 10 minutes with this new equipment," says Mastey.

Wheaton’s Franklin hospital began using Affirm last spring and is currently the only Wheaton facility that offers the procedure. While 3-D mammography is not yet the standard of care for all women, Mastey believes it soon will be. She also hopes that the Affirm technology catches on as well and becomes the standard of care when it comes to breast biopsies.

"If you have the ability to get at a tumor and diagnosis it one way or the other, either benign or malignant, then there’s value to the technology," says Mastey.



This story ran in the January 2016 issue of: