New breast imaging and diagnostic center opens in Boston

BOSTON — Breast Cancer remains a common diagnosis.

Each year, some 330,000 women in the U.S. will learn they have the disease -- as will about 3,000 men. And The National Breast Cancer Foundation estimates the disease will kill around 44,000 in 2022.

Catching Breast Cancer early is the goal of Brigham and Women’s new Breast Imaging and Diagnostic Center, located at Faulkner Hospital. The Center, which just opened on the fifth floor, replaces an older facility at the hospital. It offers not only state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, but soothing color schemes and, for the first time, comforting views of foliage.

“So now we have gorgeous views of the Arnold Arboretum, where in the past we were looking out at a parking lot,” said Dylan Kwait, MD, Chief of Radiology at Faulkner. “And all that helps to reduce anxiety for what, for most women, is an anxiety producing experience.”

It’s an experience some women have not been through in quite some time -- and that’s causing some anxiety among clinicians.

“We closed screening mammography at the height of the Covid pandemic,” Kwait said. “That was statewide. No screening mammograms. Nothing that wasn’t deemed essential.”

Kwait said the embargo on mammograms lasted for about six months -- and even today, nearly two years later -- doctors are still playing catch-up on those tests.

“The number of women that are coming back to us now for screening mammograms that may have missed them during the pandemic is very high,” Kwait said.

Kwait said Faulkner has a history of addressing women’s health, with the first Breast Diagnostic Center established at the hospital more than 50 years ago.

“It was a novel idea at the time,” he said. “Nobody was really bringing together experts in breast imaging with experts in breast surgery, breast pathology and the other disciplines involved in treating breast cancer.”

While the new center has the same emphasis on diagnosis and treatment -- the tools have evolved.

“We’ve come a long way with our imaging technology,” Kwait said. “We offer 3-D mammography (also known as breast tomosynthesis). It’s basically a technology that allows us to tease through all the dense tissue in the breast and helps us to identify very early, small breast cancers that we otherwise couldn’t see with traditional mammography.”

Kwait said yearly mammograms are recommended for women 40 and older. Doctors also recommend monthly self-exams and an annual physical examination of the breasts by a physician.

If cancer is detected, the new Center offers something else on site -- the YMCA’s ‘Live Strong’ program, designed for cancer survivors.

“You’re ushered into this new world of experiencing this disease,” said David Shapiro, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston. “People are looking for each other, but they’re in this moment of facing something they’ve never faced before. And having a new identity. What does it mean to be a survivor?”

When it comes to breast cancer, a survivor is usually someone whose tumor was caught early.

In fact, The National Breast Cancer Foundation estimates a 99% 5-year survival rate if cancer is caught and treated before it goes beyond the breast.

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