MANSFIELD – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where shades of pink serve as a symbol of solidarity for breast cancer survivors as well as a visual reminder for women ages 40 and older to get their annual mammogram.
“We suggest that women at the age of 40 start their screening mammography,” said Patti Kastelic, RN, BSN, MS and director of Cancer Services, Infusion and Imaging at OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals.
“Now, you will find anecdotes of younger women (who are doing that), but normally it's because there's been a problem identified (and) most malignancies, for most women, is what we call silent (because) the bulk of people don’t have symptoms,” she said.
With the help of 3D mammography, technology is contributing to that accuracy.
Kastelic, who has been involved with cancer services over the bulk of her 42-year career, pointed out that the technology, like that for cellphones and computers, has evolved over time and women are seeing a change in the way mammograms are done.
That change has come with the advent of 3D mammography, and for some doctor offices or hospitals across the nation, 2D mammography—a low-dose X-ray that allows radiologists to look for changes in the breast tissue in women and men—is no longer the gold standard. As a result, many doctor’s offices and hospitals including OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby hospitals are adapting the leading-edge technology and offering 3D mammography as an option to their patients.
So, what exactly is a 3D mammogram?
The 3D technology, also known as tomosynthesis, has been available since 2011 when it was first approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.
According to a flier from OhioHealth, radiologists can identify and characterize individual breast structures without the confusion of overlapping breast tissue. During a scan, multiple low-dose images of the breast are acquired at different angles, then produced in a series of millimeter slices that can be viewed as a three-dimensional reconstruction of the breast.
The 3D image also allows radiologists to view more images (about 200-300) as opposed to its 2D counterpart of approximately three to four images.
Among its many benefits, tomosynthesis provides clearer images, earlier detection of breast cancer and reduced call-back rates, which helps to reduce some of the anxiety in women as well as increase the convenience of getting the image done for women, who otherwise, might opt-out.
Many practitioners simply further see it as a more accurate image, citing clearer images and optimal imaging and visibility, especially for women with very dense breasts. Studies have also shown that it decreases the number of callbacks for additional imaging due to false positives or other reasons as much as 15-30%.
Kastelic spoke highly of her team of nurse navigators who work with patients throughout their diagnosis and treatment process.The breast navigator is available to educate, guide and support the patient experiencing a breast cancer workup.
“Screening and breast health awareness are critical” she explained, pointing out she is proud of her staff and physicians concerning breast screenings and treatment. “There is quite the success of survival and eradicating and putting breast cancer in remission. I can’t say that for all cancers, but I can say that for breast cancer, which is why we really push that screening.”
The other important piece of information Kastelic stressed is that women (40 and over) no longer need an order from their physicians to get a mammogram.
“You can call up at the age of 40 and schedule it yourself,” she said, noting it is a change that has taken place over the past several years.
Prior to the pandemic, OhioHealth had historically always had very large breast cancer screening events during the month of October.
With social distancing and other sanitary measures in place to ensure the safety of patients who visit the health system, the Mansfield and Shelby hospitals are also partnering with their local YMCA’s to get women interested in getting screened this month.
“The Mansfield Area Y and Shelby YMCA Community Center are honored to be partnering with our friends at OhioHealth this October as we emphasize the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness. It is truly a year-round effort to advocate the importance of early detection; however, we wanted to take full advantage of this month, and encourage our members and communities to echo one of the core purposes, “Get your screening!,” wrote CEO/President Cristen Gilbert in an email to Richland Source.
Together the hospitals and the fitness centers will provide complimentary VIP passes to the local YMCA’s for the first 50 women, 40 or older, who get their mammograms done during the month of October.
The promotion will be available through the end of October. Residents interested in learning more about the promotion can visit the Facebook pages of Mansfield Area Y or the Shelby YMCA Community Center.
Practitioners and survivors alike agree that cost shouldn’t be a deterrent to getting this important screening during the month of October and beyond.
“We know that early detection saves lives and we know that early detection as a result of a mammogram saves lives,” said Rhonda Breit, chairperson of The Pat Kracker Breast Cancer Fund as well as a breast cancer survivor. “And so we are really just about our mission to educate women on the benefits of early detection and to ensure that no woman in Richland County does without a mammogram because she couldn’t afford it.”
The Pat Kracker Breast Cancer Foundation provides a myriad of services for clients from diagnostics and pre-diagnostic services including 3D mammography and ultrasounds, in addition to wigs and prosthesis, help with rent, mortgage, utilities, insurance transportation (ex. gas cards for transportation) and other costs associated with prevention and treatment.
“Breast cancer is overwhelming and the cost of treating breast cancer is overwhelming,” Breit said, explaining, “I have learned a ton about the hoops people have to jump through to get assistance.”
Breit knew she wanted to get involved with the breast cancer fund and give back to other survivors after she had received so much compassion and understanding from the medical community when she got her diagnosis four years ago.
Afterward, with the help of a nurse navigator, she met and spoke with founder Dave Kracker and became connected with the breast cancer fund, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, this year.
“There’s no easy breast cancer journey, but compared to what some of these women have gone through, mine was a cakewalk,” Breit said, noting her husband was also passing away from cancer at the time she had received her diagnosis.
Breit said she has learned traits such as strength and perseverance as well as keeping a positive attitude—even when things aren't positive—from some of the survivors she has worked with, so she wants to alleviate some of those hoops. Though, she realizes there are guidelines and parameters for the assistance the fund offers. She will also be spreading the word about the agency through fundraisers, presentations and media efforts this month.
“Typically during the month of October we support fundraisers,” Breit said, adding the events such as ones with Westbrook Country Club or St. Peter’s offers an opportunity for her to speak further about the organization and its mission.
“We’ve been here 25 years and there are still people who don’t know that we exist,” she said, adding, “We are here to encourage and assist.”