Del E. Webb Foundation Awards $100,000 Grant to Fund Purchase of Second 3-D Mammography

A $100,000 grant to John C. Lincoln's Breast Health and Research Center has made it possible to continue to meet the escalating demand for 3-D mammography, according to Breast Center Director Sherry Gage, RTRM.

The grant, awarded by the Del E. Webb Foundation, allowed the Breast Center to purchase a second 3-D mammography unit that uses a technology known as tomosynthesis to produce medical images of thin layers of breast tissue to screen for and/or diagnose breast cancer.

Cancers that can hide behind overlapping layers of dense breast tissue imaged by traditional 2-D digital mammography can be clearly seen in the images of thin layers produced by tomosynthesis. Since the Breast Center has been using 3-D mammography, radiologists have diagnosed 20 cases of breast cancer that were not visible in traditional 2-D digital images.

John C. Lincoln acquired its first 3-D mammography unit in April 2011, becoming the first in Arizona and just the second in the nation to offer 3-D screening mammograms.

After just a few months it became apparent that one 3-D unit could not handle the demand. More than 70 3-D mammograms were being performed daily and the waiting list was growing. John C. Lincoln administrators recognized that with the growth in demand, capacity would soon be unable to meet the need.

The 3-D images are especially valuable for younger patients who not only have dense breast tissue, but whose bodies are still produce the hormone estrogen that feeds breast cancer. This usually makes theirs the most aggressive form of the disease, and makes it imperative for them to be diagnosed at the earliest possible time.

Another benefit of the advanced technology – because the 3-D images are so clear – is that radiologists can more easily rule out cancer without calling patients back for further imaging. Those callbacks are necessary when 2-D imaging reveals suspicious areas that may be cancerous. By eliminating the need for most recalls, tomosynthesis eliminates patient stress, anxiety and inconvenience as well as added costs for followup testing.

Not surprisingly, the demand for 3-D screening mammography at the Breast Center escalated significantly when women found out that it was available. Women not only came from all parts of the Valley; they came to John C. Lincoln from all parts of Arizona – and from other neighboring states.

The $100,000 grant from the Del E. Webb Foundation was the final part of financing necessary to acquire the new tomosynthesis unit, which had a list price of $781,000. The actual purchase price was reduced to $310,000 because John C. Lincoln traded in one of its existing 2-D digital mammography units, which was underutilized after the first 3-D unit went into service. John C. Lincoln Health Network provided $150,000 in funding and the John C. Lincoln Health Foundation awarded $60,000 for the acquisition of the second 3-D unit.

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