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Seeing more clearly at EGRMC
Hospital upgrades MRI imaging capability, staffing
W 030509 BREAST IMAGING 02
Dr. Khoa Nguyen and surgeon Camille Atallah, right, discuss a patient's MRI in the imaging center at East Georgia Regional Medical Center. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      When East Georgia Regional Medical Center upgraded to a state-of-the-art General Electric 1.5 TESLA high definition Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner in 2008, it allowed the 150-bed hospital to offer superior medical diagnostic capabilities which are often only found in elite teaching hospitals.
       "You would not expect to find this advanced technology in a hospital serving Statesboro and surrounding communities," said Dr. Koa Nguyen, diagnostic and vascular interventional radiologist at East Georgia Regional. "The hospital's CT Slice with 3-D capability allows us to compete on the same level as many university hospitals in the southeast."
       Of all of the mammograms the radiologists read at EGRMC, approximately ten percent of patients are required to return for another diagnostic mammogram with five to eight percent of those patients needing an ultrasound. Even fewer will require an MRI.
       Approved by the FDA in 1991 as a supplemental tool to diagnose breast cancer, MRI is usually reserved for people who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer or someone who has tested positive for the breast cancer gene. In contrast to mammography which uses low dose x-rays to image the breast, MRI uses powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images.
       Ultrasound and MRI(s) are used as an adjunct to mammography. "If I see a patient who has what looks like a nodule, we'll bring the patient back for additional images, and we may find that the nodule just disappears and is attributed to superimposed tissue," said radiologist Dr. Janine Dodds, body and women's imaging specialist at EGRMC. "Other times, it shows up again on the second nodule which could be benign or malignant." 
       Current statistics show that one in eight women will get breast cancer. This is a lifetime risk, and the American College of Radiology recommends routine screenings at age 40 and done annually.
       "If there is a first degree relative, a mother or sister, who has had premenopausal breast cancer, the recommendation is to start screening ten years before the age that your relative was diagnosed with cancer," Dodds said. "Patients should expect some discomfort with mammograms, but the good news is that mammograms can detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable."
       Helen Womack, a 48-year-old small business owner from Millen, Georgia, was shocked when she received a letter from her gynecologist stating the radiologist had found a spot that needed rechecking. Within one week, Helen was rescheduled at EGRMC, and in one day had a second mammogram, followed by an MRI and ultrasound.
       "My older sister has had breast cancer, so I am at high risk," said Womack. When you are faced with this type of catastrophic news, it is comforting to be able to have the procedures done quickly and in one location. When they called me and told me it was not cancer, I felt like a 50 million pounds had been lifted off of my shoulders."
       East Georgia Regional CEO Bob Bigley said local residents may not be aware of the level of expertise in the hospital's radiology department.
       "All four radiologists on our staff are fellowship trained," said Bigley. "Fellowship training demonstrates outstanding achievement in their profession, requiring one year of postdoctoral work in their specialty after completing of their primary residency training."
       Plans for the radiology department include the addition of digital mammography with computer aided detection (CAD) and a stereotatic biopsy table which utilizes computer and digital imaging to guide the biopsies rather than patients having to undergo surgical biopsy. "Expansion of these services demonstrates our commitment to women's healthcare," said Bigley.
       The radiologists on staff at East Georgia Regional are George Prios, M.D., Khoa Nguyen, M.D., Janine Dodds, M.D., and Colin Dodds, M.D.

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