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Detecting Breast Cancer Earlier and Easier

Imagine trying to find a specific snowball in the middle of a snowstorm, or a needle in a haystack. Not easy, right? For women with dense breast tissue, finding breast cancer in its early stages can be equally challenging. Thankfully, a new tool at Lexington Medical Center is making that job easier.

mammogramXAs part of a comprehensive program for the diagnosis of breast cancer, Lexington Medical Center now offers 3-D mammography. This new breast cancer screening tool uses a low-dose X-ray to create images of the breast that allow doctors to view tissue one millimeter at a time. The technology creates multiple images within seconds that are similar to the “slices” of images in a CT scan.

“Lexington Medical Center is excited to offer this leading-edge technology for breast cancer screening,” said Dr. Beth Siroty-Smith, director of Women’s Imaging services for Lexington Radiology Associates at Lexington Medical Center. “3-D mammography reduces difficulties in identifying abnormalities in women with denser breast tissue and results in increased cancer detection.”

3-D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), is currently recommended for women who are having their first screening mammogram or who have dense breast tissue.

The term “dense breasts” refers to the appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram. Dense breast tissue appears as a solid white area, which makes it difficult to see through. Non-dense breast tissue appears dark and transparent.

2D_3D MammographyDense breast tissue can make it more difficult to interpret a mammogram, since cancer and dense breast tissue both appear white on a mammogram. Very dense breasts may increase the risk that cancer won’t be detected on a mammogram.

Studies in The Journal of The American Medical Association have shown that 3-D mammography increases breast cancer detection, and reduces false positives and unnecessary callbacks for patients with dense breast tissue.

Available since this past spring, Lexington Medical Center was the first facility in the Midlands to offer this technology. Women who have completed a 3-D mammography screening at Lexington Medical Center also report that the procedure is less painful and more tolerable than the traditional 2-D mammogram.

The FDA-approved procedure uses the same type of equipment as a 2-D mammogram and a similar dose of radiation. Women who have questions about whether or not they should receive a 3-D mammogram should talk to their doctor.

You may be more likely to have dense breasts if you’re younger. Breast tissue tends to become less dense as you age, although some women have dense breast tissue at any age. Premenopausal women and women who take hormone therapy for menopause are also more likely to have dense breast tissue.

Women who are having a first screening mammogram or whose doctors have told them they have dense breast tissue may schedule a 3-D mammogram at Lexington Medical Center’s Women’s Imaging facility on the main hospital campus in West Columbia. Women’s Imaging will nearly double the number of daily scheduling slots in an effort to accommodate all interested women. Evening and weekend hours will also soon be available. To schedule an appointment, please call (803) 791-2486.

In addition to being an American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, Lexington Medical Center’s breast program has accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the cancer program has accreditation with commendation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.

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LMC Receives Grant for Breast Cancer Screenings

Lexington Medical Center has received a grant from the SC Mountains to Midlands Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation to provide breast cancer screenings for uninsured and underinsured women in the Midlands. Lexington Medical Center is the only hospital in the Midlands to receive the grant this year, and one of only four in South Carolina.

Lexington Medical Center applied for the grant to help women in need in our community. Mammograms can help to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. Clinicians know that early detection is key to successful treatment of breast cancer. Many times, women without insurance or financial resources don’t have a routine screening mammogram.

L to R: LMC VP of Community Relations Barbara Willm; Stephanie Miller and Emily Bugay of the Susan G. Komen Foundation; LMC Board Chair Jan Burt; LMC President & CEO Mike Biediger

L to R: LMC VP of Community Relations Barbara Willm; Stephanie Miller and Emily Bugay of the Susan G. Komen Foundation; LMC Board Chair Jan Burt; LMC President & CEO Mike Biediger

“Lexington Medical Center works with local partners to find ways to help provide screenings where they are most needed,” said Barbara Willm, vice president of Community Relations at Lexington Medical Center. “Recently, that’s included outreach into the Korean and Hispanic communities, including a health fair at a Hispanic grocery store with Lexington Medical Center’s mobile mammography van.”

In addition, the Susan G. Komen Foundation honored Lexington Medical Center and breast cancer nurse navigator Kelly Jeffcoat as “Komen Champions.” In its inaugural year, the “Komen Champion” award celebrates an organization or person that shares the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s mission to create a world without breast cancer.

L to R: LMC VP of Community Relations Barbara Willm; Stephanie Miller and Emily Bugay of the Susan G. Komen Foundation; Kelly Jeffcoat; LMC Board Chair Jan Burt; LMC President & CEO Mike Biediger

L to R: LMC VP of Community Relations Barbara Willm; Stephanie Miller and Emily Bugay of the Susan G. Komen Foundation; Kelly Jeffcoat; LMC Board Chair Jan Burt; LMC President & CEO Mike Biediger

As a breast cancer nurse navigator at Lexington Medical Center, Kelly Jeffcoat helps newly diagnosed women work their way through treatment, providing helpful information and emotional support along the way. Kelly is a breast cancer survivor herself, diagnosed at the young age of 37. Kelly also leads support groups for women with breast cancer at the hospital and in the community.

Kelly Jeffcoat participates in TV news interviews

Kelly Jeffcoat participates in TV news interviews

Lexington Medical Center diagnoses approximately 250 breast cancer patients each year. The hospital’s breast program is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) and the American College of Radiology (ACR). Lexington Medical Center has four Women’s Imaging centers and a mobile mammography van, all offering digital mammography. During treatment, breast cancer patients receive the assistance of a nurse navigator who provides education and emotional support. Lexington Medical Center’s cancer program is also accredited with commendation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.

This is the fourth time that this affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation has awarded Lexington Medical Center a grant for breast cancer screenings.

Exercise for Cancer Patients

“You can lift that much weight?”

That’s the question Debra Carter got at Health Directions, Lexington Medical Center’s fitness and wellness gym, recently.

Her 30-pound presses on a strength training machine would be impressive to anyone. But what was even more impressive – and that no one knew – was that Carter was a cancer patient, still undergoing treatment, too.

The Cayce woman, age 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2011. She underwent a lumpectomy and dozens of radiation treatments. During the end of radiation, she started going to Health Directions for Cancer Exercise Training, a program run with the help of the Lexington Medical Center Foundation.

Cancer Survivors 0144That’s where she met Thad Werts, who, with a Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, is an expert in helping people with cancer exercise correctly. A CET understands cancer patients’ diagnosis, surgeries, treatments, symptoms and side effects.

“With cancer, you can be active,” he said. “I look at what we can do to make everyone’s cancer experience better.”

In March, Werts put Carter on an 8-session, twice-per-week program to increase her strength and endurance, including a mix of cardio and weights.

With his training, he understands how cancer impacts exercise, and what it’s important for patients to do – and not to do. For example, chemotherapy can lower cardiovascular endurance. And, that it’s important to be careful with range of motion for breast cancer patients who’ve had surgery, especially with chest exercises.

“I can help them build back up their muscle so that they have more strength,” he said.

Carter liked it.

“It makes you feel so much better because you have more energy,” she said.

Since beginning the program two years ago, Werts has built up the program to train about ten patients each month, including breast, prostate and colon cancer patients.

The importance of such exercise is well-documented among cancer clinicians, who stress the importance of incorporating wellness activity into regimens for people who are moving into the survivor phase of life.

This exercise has emotional benefits, too.

“There’s a depression factor that I didn’t understand until I went through the training,” Werts said. “Women who have gone through hormone therapy have a tendency to gain more weight, so they feel more self-conscious.”

He says exercise can help them feel happier.

“I love the clinical aspect,” he said. “I knew I never wanted to be a doctor, but that I wanted to help as many people as possible.”

It’s made a difference for Carter. Werts has inspired her to exercise for the long-term.

“He has given me a second chance,” she said.

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation provides important programs and services that help people in our community, including cancer patients. Please consider giving to the Lexington Medical Center Foundation during the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s “Midlands Gives” challenge on May 5. Learn more at