Among female visitors to TRA-MINW, the majority come in for breast imaging after they’ve felt something unusual or experienced pain and couldn’t identify the source. “Our culture focuses on the breast,” confirms Dr. Grant Tibbetts, Medical Director at the Olympia radiology practice. “But lung cancer kills more women than the second, third, fourth and fifth leading causes of death combined. It’s less common but more lethal.”
TRA-MINW is known for its Olympia Women’s Center and they offer screenings for a variety of conditions, including lung cancer, using a very low-dose chest CT scan. “We’ve worked very hard to get both the dose and the cost down,” says Tibbetts. “It makes a difference in terms of lives saved.”
Previously, patients, such as chronic smokers who were suspected of having the disease, were screened with chest x-rays which often came too late to alter outcomes. “It didn’t make any difference in terms of survival rates,” says Tibbetts. “At the time, chest CT doses were too high. Now there are approved criteria for low dose.” TRA-MINW also provides services and exams such as MRI, CT, X-ray, PET/CT, nuclear medicine, ultrasound, interventional radiology and neurointerventional radiology.
Of course, they do also offer breast cancer screenings including breast MRIs which have significant impacts for women who fall into the high-risk category. “With pre-operative breast MRIs, 17% of the time the results will change the approach to surgery,” says Tibbetts. “They may reveal a greater extent of the disease or secondary lesions. The instrument is exquisitely sensitive, so it’s not the first one we go to, but in a patient whom we already know has cancer, it changes the surgical management in one of six cases.” The ability to detect additional problems prevents multiple surgeries and saves both time and money.
The practice is home to Thurston County’s only 3-D stereotactic breast biopsy machine, a high-tech tool that Tibbetts calls the biggest breakthrough in breast screening in 30 years. “It’s fantastic technology,” he says. “It simplifies what used to be a challenging problem.” The machine combines 3-D mammography with x-ray imaging to gather tissue samples from breast abnormalities. Previously, the nearest machine was based at the Carol Milgard Breast Center in Tacoma.
Tibbetts and his colleagues are eagerly awaiting the latest upgrade, which will increase resolution and lower the x-ray dose. “It’s a new breakthrough that’s coming,” he says. “It’s just waiting for market approval.”
In the meantime, although October has passed, every month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month at TRA-MINW, says Tibbetts. “We do walk-in mammograms. The first quarter of the year there tends to be less traffic, so that’s a good time to come in.” And, the practice provides 3-D mammograms for every patient. “We don’t require patients to pay for it,” he says. “We think everyone should get it, regardless of their insurer.”
For more information about TRA-MINW, visit www.tramedicalimaging.com or call 253-761-4200 or 866-761-4200.