Earlier this year, Avera Queen of Peace established the Avera Women's Diagnostic Center on its Mitchell campus. In doing so they added features like digital mammography with the most advanced technology available to detect breast cancer. We met a Mitchell woman who was one of the first patients to use it there. She credits the early detection for not only saving her breast, but for possibly saving her life.
Julie LaFortune lives up to her name. She really considers herself one of the fortunate ones. Julie works in the Avera Queen of Peace gift shop in Mitchell so by nature of the job, she meets and greets a lot of people coming and going from the hospital who all have a story. She knows as a recent breast cancer survivor she truly is blessed and she credits the addition of digital mammography and staff in the newly added Avera Women's Diagnostic Center (located in a building near the hospital, in the Doctor's Plaza).
LaFortune says, "Oh they caught it very early. It was microscopic in size. I am so lucky. It could have been so much worse. When you hear you have cancer you think, oh geez, but I didn't have it in my lymph nodes and I didn't have to have chemo. I've been going around saying I'm the poster child for digital mammography. I really am."
Laurie Moody has been a registered mammo tech for 20 years. She is thrilled that Mitchell and Avera Queen of Peace can now offer the most advanced technology in the fight against breast cancer where early detection is key.
Moody says, "The digital unit is a faster procedure. You don't have to process film anymore. The image quality is state-of-the-art and you really see a difference especially with dense breasts with women under 50. You are able to pick up micro-calcifications and abnormalities at an earlier stage than we did with film screen.
Plus, people in the Mitchell area will no longer have to log miles and spend hours in their cars driving to places like Sioux Falls to get their mammogram or treatment.
LaFortune says, "Exactly right. I could basically work up until my appointment time and then go, even during treatment. It was great having it here."
After a lumpectomy this spring, Julie LaFortune finished up 6 weeks of radiation treatment this summer. She has her 6 month routine mammogram in November with equipment this gift shop gal knows is a valued gift to the community.
The relocation, remodeling, and equipment for the new Avera Women's Diagnostic Center was paid for by the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust for $420,000.