Avera Medical Minute: 3D mammography unit targets smaller South Dakota communities

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A bright pink truck will be winding its way in eastern South Dakota, on interstates, highways and small-town roads. This brand new Avera mobile mammography unit is not only providing the convenience of getting a mammogram close to home, but it's also offering 3D technology.

Avera 3D Mobile mammography unit

Anessa Van Osdel, Avera program director for the school of radiologic technology says several hospitals came together to make it happen. "This has been a joint venture between Avera Sacred Heart in Yankton, Queen of Peace in Mitchell and then Avera in Pierre. It's a wonderful way for all three of us to combine our resources and yet take the newest and greatest technology to all of the areas in South Dakota," said Van Osdel.

Reviewing images in 3D is a much better way to detect an area of concern. "When the radiologist views the images, instead of having the flat 2D view, they'll have slices all the way through the breast," said Van Osdel. "With those slices, they'll be better able to see the smallest microcalcifications and other things."

From checking in to completion, the entire process can be done right in the mobile unit. Avera Lead Mammographer Taliah Wellenstein describes the process. "We like to get a good history on them, and then they will go to the changing room, which is connected directly to the exam room," said Wellenstein. "They'll be about ten to fifteen minutes and they'll be on their way."

Because of the clarity and detail of 3D mammography, there are fewer false positives. If something is detected from a mammogram, further imaging, an ultrasound, biopsy or another procedure may be needed. One in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime but with treatment, there is hope.

Avera Radiation Oncologist Dr. Michael Peterson says the availability of 3D mammography and more treatment options are benefitting women around the region. "We're making it so that all women in our area can access this quality diagnostic technology," said Dr. Peterson. "Breast cancer treatment is a huge success story. There have been lots of advances in surgery, my field of radiation oncology, and medical oncology. There are so many new drugs and the prognosis has really improved from what it was at the beginning of my career."

Many doctors recommend annual mammograms beginning at age 40. To avoid any surprises, you may want to check with your insurance provider to understand what your coverage is for various types of mammograms.