SHEFFIELD, AL (WAFF) - Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield is the first facility in the southeast to offer molecular breast imaging using the GE Healthcare's Discovery NM 750b.
Molecular imaging is under the umbrella of nuclear medicine, according to Radiology Technologist Cheryl McGhee.
"Nuclear medicine studies are designed so you're injected with a small amount of radio isotope. It's designated to go to a certain, specific, target area in the body; this is designed for the breast," she said.
She said the isotope pinpoints and highlights the diseased tissue, and the new tool shows that diseased tissue without using radiation.
"The only radiation is in the isotope that you're injected with. There is no radiation involved with taking the images." And she said that goes away quickly. "Within six hours, your body's already broke it down and expelled it out," said McGhee.
Many patients dislike the mammogram because it compresses so much of the breast tissue, it hurts. But it has to basically flatten the breast for a good, clear picture. This newer technology is much more comfortable, according to former breast cancer patient Monica Black.
"It is a whole lot more gentler. And I know that in the end results that the results of what they see is going to be a whole lot better," she said.
Black was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago. She has been tested using both machines and said this new once was a surprise.
"It did surprise me, especially when I realized that what they can see is a whole lot better than actually mashing you down so hard," she laughed.
So will molecular breast imaging take the place of mammography?
"Mammography is the golden standard. It is going to be the first diagnostic tool that all doctors are going to order because it shows such detail," said McGhee.
Other tests include ultrasound, CT, MRI, and standard mammography. She said this new tool gives physicians a different method of looking at the breast tissue.
"It's really effective on dense tissue that's difficult to look through," said McGhee.
That can help with a quicker diagnosis, faster treatment and hopefully a cure.