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Canonsburg General Hospital's Breast Cancer Screening Program Combines Comfort and Cutting-Edge Technology
By Nancy Kennedy

At Canonsburg General Hospital (CGH), women are experiencing breast cancer screening in a whole new way, thanks to an innovative program that emphasizes comfortable, personalized care using state-of-the-art technology. As part of Canonsburg's new Center for Women's Health, the breast cancer screening program departs significantly from the uncomfortable, impersonal and inconvenient mammogram experience that has unfortunately been all too common in the past. Instead, the center provides women with individual care within a warm and nurturing environment, in recognition of the anxiety that accompanies this essential medical screening.

According to Marilyn Kovach, BSRT, Director of Medical Imaging and Cardiology, the hospital's innovative approach to breast cancer screening is more than a matter of aesthetics and good customer relations: it is intended to appeal to women so they are more likely to come in to have their annual mammogram, which is the best tool for early detection and treatment of breast cancer. "We cannot prevent breast cancer, so early detection is critically important, and that means a mammogram and for some women, a breast MRI. We understand that there are numerous reasons why women neglect to have breast cancer screenings. Women tend to take care of everyone else first, and put their own needs last. They may be busy with a job, child care, eldercare and managing a home leaving little time for their own healthcare. Every woman who needs a mammogram is scared because every woman is at risk. If your experience in mammography has been negative, you may be reluctant to have another. We have gone to great lengths to provide women with the best possible experience so they won't be afraid and may look forward to their test. We offer them a pleasant experience and patients are pleased with the changes."

CGH's breast imaging program emphasizes convenience, personalized care and comfort, along with high-tech precision and accuracy. Parking is free and plentiful. The Medical Imaging department is completely accessible and is located on the first floor, not far from the main entrance. The Breast Imaging Center is decorated for comfort with a buttercream and-blue color scheme. The program features equipment manufactured by Hologic, an imaging company that is exclusively dedicated to women's health. Kovach says that this mammography unit has pink foam breast pads, used to cushion the breast during the procedure. "Each patient gets her own pad. Her breast rests on a warm soft surface rather than a cold hard one. We replace the pad in front of the patient so they know it's always changed and clean. Our techs are highly experienced and make every effort to be personable with patients, so the patient knows they matter."

CGH has been offering breast MRI since August. The breast MRI room is newly designed and offers patients music, a cushioned table and warm blankets. For those who are having a breast MRI, the procedure takes approximately 1 hour. MRI is technically more complex, and involves a thorough pre-screening safety questionnaire. A mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast, while a breast MRI takes cross sectional images and uses a magnetic field rather than radiation. For an MRI of the breast, the patient lies face down on a table designed specifically for the procedure. There are openings in the table to accommodate viewing of the breasts.

"Breast MRI is indicated for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. It can depict tumors that would not be visible in a mammogram," Kovach explains. "Breast MRI is also used to evaluate the extent of cancer following a new diagnosis; to further evaluate abnormalities seen on a mammogram; for women with dense breast tissue or breast implants; and to evaluate the breast after a course of chemotherapy or a lumpectomy."

After a mammogram, patients are offered a chance to speak with the technologist before leaving. Results are available to their physicians within 24 hours. Patient feedback for the breast screening program has been enthusiastic. "The best thing is that patients leave here talking about how caring our staff is, not about how stressful the screening was," says Kovach. "They feel relaxed and are glad they came here. That's what I hoped to hear. Our goal was to make a difference in the patient's experience. They no longer have to be afraid and can return with confidence, knowing they will have an excellent screening procedure along with emotional support."

Canonsburg General Hospital offers the latest in breast imaging technology and is committed to providing the highest quality care and services. Canonsburg's Center for Women's Health offers complete healthcare for women through multiple services that enable busy women who live in the area of Canonsburg, Peters Township and Washington to schedule mammograms, breast MRIs, bone density exams and other tests in a setting that is close by, convenient and comfortable, designed to meet their unique needs.

For more information, visit www.wpahs.org.

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