Busting the mammography myths about radiation exposure | SteamboatToday.com

Busting the mammography myths about radiation exposure

Mamographer Molly Nykamp, left, and supervisor Tiffany Park demonstrate a typical exam at UCHealth Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center in Steamboat Springs.
Frances Hohl/Staff

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — People living in the Rocky Mountains are exposed to more radiation from radon in their home than they are getting a mammogram. 

“Some people will use the radiation exposure as an excuse not to get a mammogram,” said Dr. Malaika Thompson, radiologist at the Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.

“In fact, the amount of radiation exposure you get in a mammogram is similar to the amount of natural radiation exposure from eating food and drinking water annually,” Dr. Thompson added.

Dr. Thompson said the breast care center is getting new software this year that will reduce radiation exposure and cut down on the time patients will have their breasts compressed by the high-tech equipment currently in use.

UCHealth’s equipment uses a low-dose X-ray system called tomosynthesis, also known as 3-D imaging. The new software will use information from very thin slices obtained by tomosynthesis to create standard 2D pictures.

Currently, patients getting mammography have to have their breasts compressed for both the tomosynthesis images and 2D pictures. The new software is expected to cut the procedure time in half by eliminating the 2D exposure.

Thompson emphasized the fear of radiation exposure is unnecessary when it comes to mammography.

“The benefits of what mammography can do to identify cancer at early stages far outweigh the risk of any exposure,” said Thompson.

“Other radiological studies like CT scans have five to 50 times more radiation exposure,” Thompson added.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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