NBHH offers only 3D mammograms in area

With brand new state-of-the-art equipment now in place, highly accurate 3D mammograms are now available to patients at North Big Horn Hospital in Lovell. North Big Horn Hospital is the only hospital in Big Horn and Park counties that currently offers 3D mammograms.

The newly purchased equipment provides earlier breast cancer detection than conventional mammography technology and reduces the need for unnecessary callbacks for repeat exams by up to 40 percent. On average, the equipment detects 20-65 percent more invasive cancers than 2D mammography technology.

Radiology manager Julaine Askvig shows the new state-of-the-art mammography equipment capable of producing 3D mammograms now available at North Big Horn Hospital in Lovell.
Patti Carpenter photo

“The big advantage is that there are more images for our radiologist Dr. Merrill to review, so if he sees a mass he can see before the mass, all through the mass and after. So, there’s a lot of detail there,” explained radiology manager Julaine Askvig.

The exam is performed in a similar manner to 2D technology, but images generated by the new equipment show more detail. 

 “The positioning is exactly the same during the exam. The compression is the same,” said Askvig. “Some women say they think this is more comfortable. Others say it’s about the same. I would much rather get a mammogram than go to the dentist. The compression only lasts a few seconds and then you’re done.”

The American Cancer Society recommends all women of “average risk” for breast cancer to begin having yearly mammograms by the time they reach age 45, and to have mammograms every two years beginning at age 55. It also recommends that women have the option to start getting mammograms as early as age 40.

According to information provided by the Wyoming Cancer Resource Services Cody office, the percentage of women in Big Horn County who get regular mammograms after age 40 is one of the lowest in the state. The percentage of women in Wyoming who receive regular mammograms after age 40 is far lower than the national average.

Mammograms can detect cancer early, allowing for more successful treatment options. With early detection, the five-year survival rate for patients with breast cancer is almost 100 percent.

“If you’re diagnosed early, your options are much greater and so is your survival,” said Askvig.

One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Eight out of nine women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.

“Sometimes people get it into their heads that they don’t have a family history so they can skip a few years,” said Askvig. “That’s not true.”

As a convenience, North Big Horn Hospital is allowing women 40 years of age or older to schedule mammograms directly as part of their preventive health care regimen. For more information, contact the radiology department at the hospital.

“I feel very fortunate that we are able to provide this service to our patients,” said Askvig. “I really am thankful for our administration and our board for approving this for us. I’ve dreamed of having this technology at our hospital for about four or five years. Anything that allows women in our area to get this kind of service close to home and not have to travel to Billings is important.”

By Patti Carpenter