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St. Joseph Healthcare adding equipment to boost breast cancer detection

The hospital hopes to improve early detection with the new equipment.

BANGOR, Maine — Investing in the healthcare for eastern Maine and beyond, St. Joseph Healthcare is introducing two more 3D mammography systems for patient screening. 

Thanks to federal funding from the Fiscal Year 2023 Health and Human Services appropriations bill secured by Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, the hospital will be receiving more than $700,000 to cover the cost of equipment. 

President Brad Coffey said the funding was partially secured thanks to the community: letters from folks at the Patrick Dempsey Foundation, Penquis CAP, Eastern Agency Area on Aging, Penobscot Community Health Care, and more, all encouraging the senators to give funding to St. Joseph's investment. 

Breast cancer is considered the most common form of cancer in women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. The average woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime.

According to St. Joseph, former 2D mammogram technology results in around 95 percent of women receiving false positives when getting a call back for an abnormal mammogram. 

Coffey said he understands first-hand the stress a false positive mammogram can cause after receiving one of his own.

"I know that during that period of time from the actual mammogram taking place to the time you get that call or the results, there is some stress. The reduction in those false positives is a real plus," Coffey said.  

The hospital upgraded to 3D mammography 20-16. Paired with "ProFound AI" technology, the tech translates to better detection, images, and more comfort when screening. 

Lead Mammographer Laurie Macleod said after 42 years with St. Joseph, working with the equipment has been much more assuring when looking for concerns. 

"[It's] less of a chance of them calling them back for extra images because they can get so much more out of that one exam and not wonder how deep it goes in the breast, you can look through multiple slices," Macleod said. 

Breast cancer survivor and leader of Open Arms Brooke Ismail understands the importance of earlier detection, and said making that call for your yearly mammogram is what stands between you and stopping cancer in its tracks. 

"It was me knowing my own body doing self exams, which is important too, I knew there was something wrong so I was being my own advocate," Ismail said. 

Although it is common to be concerned about a lump, which may be a sign of cancer, any sudden changes to your breasts you're not familiar with should also sound the same alarm. 

According to the American Cancer Society, these changes can range from swelling, skin dimpling, to pain or discharge. 

Lastly, make sure to schedule that annual breast exam starting at age forty. 

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