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Breast Cancer Screenings: A good gift every birthday

More than one-third of the women diagnosed with breast cancer at the Centegra Gavers Breast Center have been under the age of 50.

That’s why Elissa Brebach, MD, the center’s section chief of Mammography, agrees with both the American Cancer Society and American College of Radiology: Women should begin having annual mammograms to screen for signs of breast cancer when they turn 40.

“The earlier we can detect it, the more curable it is,” says Dr. Brebach, a board- certified radiologist.

With the addition of 3-D imaging technology, radiologists at the Centegra Gavers Breast Center will be able to spot signs of breast cancer earlier and with greater accuracy.


The newest form of digital mammography, 3-D imaging of the breast, also called tomosynthesis, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only two years ago.

It produces images of the entire breast in thin sections, or slices. The slices allow the radiologist to view a single layer of the breast from a variety of angles, as well as reassemble all the slices into one 3-D image.

According to the journal Radiology Today, radiologists in two separate studies were asked to analyze more than 300 mammograms performed using 2-D or 2-D plus 3-D systems. Radiologists in both studies identified cancerous and noncancerous cases with more accuracy when the 3-D images were added.

“It’s a useful technology for all breast types,” Dr. Brebach says. “However, it’s particularly effective in women with dense breasts. Looking at dense breast tissue slice by slice eliminates the probability of image distortion that can make an accurate reading more difficult.

“The benefit of 3-D imaging isn’t just that it’s more sensitive for detecting breast cancer,” Dr. Brebach says. “It also reduces the likelihood of false positives.”


Centegra Health System was able to purchase the Selenia Dimensions tomosynthesis system with donations from the Centegra Hospital–Woodstock Auxiliary and other community organizations.

However, most insurance plans don’t yet cover the cost of 3-D imaging.

“So our gift back to the community is providing this technology without an additional charge,” Dr. Brebach says.

The new system—which is the only one of its kind in the region—produces both 2-D and 3-D images during a single breast compression.

Standard 2-D mammograms will continue to be offered at all other Centegra Medical Imaging locations.

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Centegra’s Breast Health Navigator, Lynn Griesmaier, RN, MS, offers guidance and support to patients throughout their treatment. Call 815-334-5566 for an appointment.