Dr. Ainel (Boonprakong) Sewell & 3D Mammography
It is unlikely you could find someone in the U.S. who personally or relationally hasn’t been impacted by breast cancer. It strikes about one in eight U.S. women (nearly 12 percent) over the course of her lifetime and has claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 women in the U.S. in 2014, second only to lung cancer.
The good news is that the mortality rate for breast cancer has been decreasing since 1989, with the largest decreases in women under 50. These declines are thought to be the result of treatment advances, increased awareness and perhaps most importantly, through screenings that provide early and accurate diagnosis.
One of the most promising new diagnostic technologies is now available at Health First Diagnostic Centers with the addition of Brevard County’s first 3D mammography screening. 3D mammography, or breast tomosynthesis, screening technology has been shown to find significantly more invasive cancers than a traditional 2D mammogram, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. To underscore the magnitude of this breakthrough, TIME magazine selected 3D mammography as one of the “Top 11 health advances of 2014.”
“This cutting-edge technology is an extraordinary tool in the detection and identification of breast cancer,” said Aaron Robinson, vice president of outpatient and wellness for Health First. “We are excited to be the first to bring this technology to the residents of Brevard County.” Currently, 3D mammography is available at their Hickory Breast Center and at Cape Canaveral Hospital.
A Closer Look
Health First Radiologist Dr. Ainel (Boonprakong) Sewell, who is the only physician in Brevard Fellowship-trained in Mammography, explained the technology provided by Hologic 3D mammography. “It allows the doctor to examine breast tissue layer by layer, instead of viewing all of the complexities of breast tissue in a flat image, as with traditional 2D mammography. Fine details are more visible and no longer hidden by the tissue above or below. This allows the physician to determine what is overlapping tissue and what is a true mass.”
According to Dr. Sewell, the results are astounding. “It can detect 41 percent more invasive breast cancers and reduces false positives by up to 40 percent. In addition, it reduces overall call-back rates from screenings by 30 percent, meaning women at high risk or with dense breast tissue will see better results from their screening mammogram and be less likely to be called back for a diagnostic mammogram with ultrasound.”
By reducing callbacks and false alarms, patient anxiety is reduced, as well as healthcare costs. “For women with dense breast tissue, regardless of their age, this technology is especially important,” she said as a point of emphasis.
Hologic Inc.’s 3D mammography is the first and currently the only FDA- approved 3D mammography system in the U.S. This technology was approved for breast cancer screening and diagnosis in the U.S. in 2011, and it is in use in all 50 states and over 50 countries. An estimated six million women in the U.S. were screened with the technology in 2014 and insurance for it has been approved by Medicare and Health First Health Plans.
A Passion for Patients
Dr. Sewell’s passion for medicine and the patients she serves could probably be attributed to her mother. “My mom was a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital in South Florida. It was a legendary place. When she came home at night, she would tell me about all the interesting patients she had, from complex cancers to gunshot victims, and it just excited me. In fact, when I was 12 or 13, before the HIPAA regulations were so stringent, I actually went into the hospital with my mom and shadowed physicians. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be a doctor.”
Though she initially planned to be an anesthesiologist, while studying medicine at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, she explained, “I was drawn to radiology because it offered such diversity, from diagnosis to actual procedures. The radiologists were like a doctor’s doctor, they were almost like consultants to physicians. In addition, the breakthroughs and new emerging technologies in breast imaging and interventional radiology are incredible.”
Speaking of 3D mammography, she said, “This is the future of mammography, just like at one time we had 2D film mammography and then went to digital. It is the natural evolution of the technology. What is more, the patient experience is almost the same; it is practically the same process and only takes approximately four seconds longer. Also, the amount of radiation a patient is exposed to is below the government safety standards and roughly equivalent to 2D mammograms.”
Dr. Sewell urged women, especially those with certain risk factors, to explore 3D Mammography with their doctors. She warns women to not blindly accept reports from certain studies, quoted on the news, about the need for mammograms as fact, without carefully and critically examining those studies. “Don’t stake your life on sound bites or bits of information. Read the studies and talk with your physician about what you hear. The risk is simply too great.”