SALEM - Size matters when it comes to breast cancer and digital mammography increases the chance of detecting cancer sooner, when it's smaller, according to Dr. Peter Apicella.
Apicella serves as chairman of the Salem Community Hospital Medical Imaging Department, which was the first in the area to offer digital mammography, beginning in February 2010.
That first year, more than 100 breast cancers were diagnosed, with 80 percent less than an inch in size, for an estimated survival rate of 98 percent, he explained. Cancer the size of a pencil point, less than an eighth of an inch, has been documented through digital mammography at SCH.
"Every time we can catch it early, we can make a difference," Apicella said.
The hospital averages about 6,000 mammograms per year, with 60 to 80 breast cancers diagnosed per year.
Apicella will talk about value of digital mammography and yearly mammograms during Puttin' on the Pink, a program being presented at 12:15 p.m. Friday behind the Salem Medical Center, across the street from the hospital. The program is a joint venture of the SCH Medical Imaging Department and the SCH Charitable Foundation.
Apicella's father, Frank, also a doctor, brought mammography with him when he came to SCH in the 1960's. Since 1990, when it was realized it was going to make a difference, it became the test of choice.
"Mammography has reduced death rates by 30 percent in the last 20 years because it's catching (cancer) earlier before it spreads," Apicella said.
On a computer screen, he showed how digital mammography was different than the previous form of mammography, showing a picture of a dense breast where nothing could really be seen, then showing an image under digital mammography, with a spot clearly visible.
Digital mammography offers a higher resolution image, better visualization of tumors, faster results, shorter exam time and reduces the need to come back for additional imaging. He said he's able to see things now that he couldn't see before.
Apicella noted that according to national trial results, digital mammography improved cancer detection in women with dense breasts, women younger than 50 and perimenopausal women (those who are near menopause.)
For breast cancer detection, he said the key is annual mammograms. They catch 40 percent of all breast cancers, he said.
Breast cancer screening recommendations include: monthly breast self-exams, checking for lumps, thickening, swelling or tenderness, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain, scaliness, ulceration, retraction or spontaneous discharge, with any changes reported to a physician; annual breast exam by a physician (physicians are training to recognize abnormalities, with nearly 9 percent of cancers found on physical examination not visualized by mammography; and annual mammogram, beginning at age 40.
Anyone with a strong family history of breast cancer, such as a mother, sister or grandmother, should start annual screenings 10 years prior to the age of breast cancer in a relative.
LuAnn Haddad, SCH Vice President of Institutional Advancement, said the hospital created the Charitable Foundation three years ago as a way for the community to financially support the hospital through charitable giving. One way the Charitable Foundation helps out is by supporting services for the hospital's cancer patients.
With Puttin' on the Pink, she said they're celebrating the outcome of success of cancer survivors, along with supporting screenings and other support services.
On April 13, 2013, the foundation is planning Destination: Hope, a daylong retreat for women cancer patients actively in treatment. She said it will be a day of sharing and communicating with other women facing the challenges of cancer treatment and a day of uplifting and pampering.
Puttin' on the Pink will include information about digital mammography, a survivor's story, a 1-mile walk and a light lunch. A tent will be set up behind the Salem Medical Center and pink will be the signature color for signs and clothing.
Michele Hoffmeister, SCH Director of Public Relations, said more than 20 survivors came out for the first Puttin' on the Pink event last year. She said any women in the community are welcome to come, both breast cancer survivors and the people who supported them.
"This is the joy at the end of that journey," she said.
Those planning to attend are asked to call the Public Relations Department at 330-332-7227 to register or to get information.