Teachers at Fritsch Elementary School put two Carson Country radiologists to the test Wednesday.
The break room was crowded, the deli sandwiches laid out and the subject was breast cancer. Apparently, Drs. Betsy Card and Gregg McAninch of Tahoe Carson Radiology passed with flying colors.
"This was great, very informative," said second-grade teacher Kathy Bakst as she rushed back to class.
Much of the conversation revolved around digital mammography, a new technology promising less radiation and an improved detection rate. Unlike regular mammograms, the image can be manipulated and the resolution improved. As an added safeguard, a computer double-checks the image after it has been read by a radiologist.
According to Tahoe-Carson spokesman Larry Weber the new method improves early detection by 20 percent, but teachers complained that their insurance, Hometown Health, would not cover the procedure.
"They're our largest provider, insuring both the school district and the state," said third-grade teacher Mary Lungstrum.
McAninch said insurance companies often don't pay for these new technologies until the studies proving their effectiveness are complete. Despite the lack of numbers, he feels this new method is much more accurate.
Weber said Medicare does reimburse for these procedures, which cost $150. The computer-aided detection costs another $35 while a standard mammogram costs $85.
The discussion moved past digital mammography to other topics and the doctors had a number of valuable tips:
-- It is important for patients who have discovered a lump to tell their physicians rather than relying on a mammogram screening. No method is fail-safe and things can be missed, especially in those with dense breast tissue.
-- Those with a family history of cancer should start having mammograms 10 years earlier than the relative's age when first diagnosed.
-- A recent study in China suggests breast exams do not save lives. By the time they can be palpated, the lump is too advanced. But McAninch did not agree.
"Breast self-examinations doesn't hurt, and they may help," he said. "I know of plenty of women who found lumps at an early stage."
Card said it is important to become familiar with the breast tissue. Then if an abnormality does present itself, the patient is more sensitive to those changes.
The event was sponsored by Tahoe Carson Radiology and Great Basin Imaging. Physicians are available, on request, for presentations. Call business manager Larry Weber at 888-0212.