St. Mary’s adds to breast cancer screening facilities

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Dr. Joyce Sekharan, director of the breast cancer program at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, wields ceremonial scissors to cut a pink ribbon as she joins with other doctors and technicians to celebrate a new mammography unit. The unit uses the latest technology, including artificial intelligence, to detect breast cancer. (Business Times photos by Phil Castle)

St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction has added to the technology it deploys in detecting breast cancer.

Doctors and technicians at the breast cancer center in the Advanced Medical Pavilion joined in a celebration of sorts of a third mammography unit.

“It’s an exciting day,” said Dr. Joyce Sekharan, director of the breast cancer program at St. Mary’s.

The addition increases the capacity of a facility that conducts 13,000 mammograms a year, Sekharan said.

Moreover, the Hologic 3Dimensions unit offers the latest technology in detecting breast cancer earlier, when the prognosis for cure is higher, she said. Mammograms can detect cancer up to two years before it’s big enough to feel or cause symptoms.

The unit also reduces the need for breast biopsies and offers a shorter screening time that decreases discomfort for patients, she said.

Dr. Roy Erb, a radiologist who practices at St. Mary’s, said the unit produces high-resolution three-dimensional images. Artificial intelligence helps in identifying characteristics commonly associated with cancer and marks images for further evaluation by radiologists. A score indicates how likely an area could be cancerous.

The software also provides information that helps radiologists prioritize their work in deciding which mammograms need immediate attention.

“It’s the future of imaging,” Erb said.

Sekharan said breast cancer afflicts on average one in eight women, and the risk increases in women over age 40. But survival rates also have increased along with screenings.  She urged women over 40 to schedule annual mammograms.

To schedule a breast cancer screening at St. Mary’s Breast Care Center, call (970) 298-6900 or visit the website at