By Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, N.Y.
It's called a "Gamma-Gram," and it boasts an amazingly near perfect--97 percent--accuracy in early breast cancer detection. GammaGrams are "breast specific gamma imaging."
Q&A recently spoke to Jeanine Ferguson, 37, of Niagara Falls, manager of diagnostic imaging at Mount St. Mary's Hospital, which has what may be the only BSGI camera in Western New York.
What exactly is a Gamma- Gram--in lay person's terms-- and how does it differ from a mammogram?
A GammaGram is a nuclear medicine procedure that requires a radioactive injection in the vein of your foot. The injection has no side effects and allows us to see the function of the breast tissue.
Cancer cells are detected based on cancer cells absorbing the nuclear material more avidly than healthy breast cells. A GammaGram is used to resolve questions arising from difficult to interpret mammograms--such as with a dense, fibrous and lumpy breast. It's also helpful in patients with implants, prior surgery, previous cancer and patients where a doctor feels a lump, and the "mammo" is negative.
A mammogram uses X-rays to look at the breast tissue that shows anatomy and structure.
How do you think this will impact women's (and men's) health?
I think this is a wonderful tool, and a great move forward to early detection of breast cancer.
There's no breast compression, but does that needle hurt?
It's like a regular needle stick when drawing blood. There are no side effects to the injection--you'll feel no differently.
How does it work with health insurance?
The procedure doesn't require pre-approval.
How did you get into this line of work?
I read a nuclear medicine brochure when I was in college, looked into the field, thought it was very interesting and unique, and couldn't wait to learn more about it.
Do you like your job?
I enjoy my job immensely. I love being an important, "little part" of a patient's journey. I've met many wonderful people. My job is different every day. Learning new ways to help make a difference in a patient's life is a great feeling.
How did you get your job?
I was working at Our Lady of Victory Hospital, and they were merging with Mercy Hospital. I was presented with the opportunity to work at St. Mary's Hospital, and be closer to home, so I took it.
What does your job entail?
I oversee the daily operations of the nuclear medicine department, as well as
some other areas in Diagnostic Imaging.
Have you had personal experience with breast cancer?
I've not been personally affected by breast cancer--but if I were, I'd want to know I did everything possible for early detection, the key to a successful treatment.
Can you tell me a bit about your influences?
I was presented with information on the BSGI camera and realized immediately what an important tool this could be with Mount St. Mary's commitment to breast health. With my knowledge of the principles of nuclear medicine, I could clearly see this would be a significant move forward in our commitment. I then presented the information to the administration, and they were equally as excited.
Why did you get into the health field?
Math and science have always interested me so the health field was a perfect fit.
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