Although breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S., Hillsdale Community Health Center helps women make informed decisions by understanding the disease, their risks and their options.
In July 2011, HCHC raised the roof to install a new 1.5 Tesla General Electric MRI. The new large bore, closed MRI, with a price tag of $1.5 million, is staffed by technologists and radiologists overseen by Interventional Radiologist Marcio Curvelo, M.D., based out of Kalamazoo.
According to Curvelo, breast MRI is a highly sensitive, noninvasive diagnostic tool that is used in conjunction with mammography and ultrasound to detect, diagnose and monitor breast cancer therapies.
“Breast MRI is an important tool in screening for and treating breast cancer,” Curvelo said. “It’s a refining tool that’s great to have in the arsenal.”
It provides a different view from X-ray mammography and is suitable in certain situations, such as in women with dense breast tissue and women classified as having high risk for breast cancer.
Chief MRI Technologist Jamie Caldwell said MRIs are scheduled, when necessary, seven days a week. The higher strength magnet affords the radiologist better imaging quality, which allows more advanced studies to be performed.
It’s this advanced technology that better serves the community, said HCHC Director of Development Judy Gabriele.
“We are on the cutting edge of technology all the time,” Gabriele said, noting the newer machine is also more spacious and accommodating. It replaces the former machine that was seven years-old.
Caldwell said MRI can be used in early diagnosis and if there is a concern due to family history.
“Sometimes young female patients and those with dense breasts can receive more information from an MRI after an ultrasound is done,” Caldwell said. “One’s physician can better determine who needs the MRI once their personal and family history is taken.”
The procedure takes approximately 35 minutes when on the table, after a questionnaire covers safety and patient history. She emphasizes that an MRI does not utilize ionizing radiation.
Caldwell explained many patients receive a contrast agent (dye) intravenously during their MRI scan which provides additional information of the area being scanned.
If the doctor has determined that this procedure will enhance MRI scan results, the technologist will place an IV in one’s arm prior to going into the scan. Then, the patient lies on the table in a prone position.
The patient is instructed to lay still because the machine is sensitive to movement which also causes blurring on the images, she explained.
Curvelo said the level of care at HCHC is “second to none” as the equipment and expertise is the same found at bigger hospitals. Additionally, the convenience of treatment close to home, along with personalized care, is advantageous, he said.
“Breast cancer is very common and a prevalent problem, so we need to be up to pace,” Curvelo said.
Providing MRIs allows the detection of smaller problems. While mamographies can detect problems the size of centimeters, MRIs can detect millimeters – tiny calcifications in the breast.
“It’s more sensitive and can pick up smaller lesions and can help detect if it is malignant or benign to try to avoid unnecessary biopsies,” he said. “Detection is done earlier and earlier and it avoids unnecessary procedures.”
To find out more, contact the Center for Women’s Health at 517-437-5277.