Blythewood Woman Values 3-D Mammography
In October 2006, Constella Zimmerman’s life turned upside down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer after her doctor discovered a lump during a checkup. Living in New Jersey at the time, Constella was preparing to return to her home state of South Carolina for a new job opportunity. She endured chemotherapy and radiation in New Jersey and South Carolina.
Constella says she never lost sight that her faith would see her through her cancer treatments. “The first thing I did was have my son shave my head,” she said. “While I had to come to terms with what I was facing, I realized that other people have survived and I had to have faith that I would survive, too.”Now, as a 10-year survivor, Constella is adamant about keeping up with her annual checkups. She’s a patient at the Northeast Columbia office of Sandhills Women’s Care, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, where she had her first 3-D mammogram.
Sandhills Women’s Care offers 3-D mammography, also known as ‘tomosynthesis.’ This breast cancer screening tool creates a group of three-dimensional pictures of the breast and allows doctors to view tissue one millimeter at a time, making tiny details visible earlier and easier.
Jennifer Linfert, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN at Sandhills Women’s Care, stresses that early detection is key in treating breast cancer successfully.“Patients will find that 3-D mammography is no different from the mammogram they are accustomed to as far as compression, positioning and time,” she said. “The benefit to patients is that the multiple layers of images resulting from 3-D mammography can help doctors better evaluate the breast tissue.”
3-D mammography uses a low dose X-ray to create multiple images within seconds that are similar to the “slices” of images in a CT scan. The FDA-approved procedure uses the same type of equipment as a 2-D mammogram and a similar dose of radiation. Studies have shown that 3-D mammography also reduces false positives and unnecessary callbacks for patients with dense breast tissue.
Constella, who holds a PhD and is a professor at Webster University, understands the need for patients to be well educated and informed about their health care.
“My doctors made sure that I had plenty of detail about why 3-D mammography was a preferred method of screening for me,” she said. “And the fact that they could get results to you quickly is so important. You’re always thinking ‘what if.’ That’s the reality of it.”
Patients who have mammograms performed through Lexington Medical Center receive results in less than five days.
Constella is a true believer in encouraging every woman she knows to have her annual mammogram. “I skipped my mammogram one year; and as it turns out, that one year I skipped was the year it mattered,” she said. “If I hadn’t skipped, we would have caught it much sooner.”
Her advice to every woman is to mark that date on the calendar and never, ever miss that appointment.