First digital mammography service in area to be certified

Orange City Area Health System’s Mammography Department — which launched a new full-field digital mammography service last October — was recently given a “no findings” accreditation by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). In addition to the annual state inspection by IDPH, the health system submits data and images that are closely evaluated to meet requirements of the Mammography Quality Standards Act of 1992 (MQSA).

Orange City Area Health System (OCAHS) is the first Digital Mammography system in the area to be accredited — or certified — according to Marty Guthmiller, CEO of the health system.

“This was the first time that we have submitted ‘digital’ images for the inspection,” reports Darin Blankespoor, Radiology Manager at OCAHS. “A ‘no findings’ evaluation is the highest mark you can receive, and means that the inspectors had no recommendations on how the images could improve.”

According to Dr. Nicholas DeVries, radiologist at OCAHS, digital mammography offers the advantage of very high-resolution images. “We can adjust the contrast, magnify areas, and take a much closer and detailed look by enhancing the data rather than relying on standard films,” he explains. “We can also transmit images electronically, quickly, to other medical providers like oncologists and surgeons.”

Mammography is considered the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer, and OCAHS physicians and radiology staff follow the guidelines of the American Cancer Society that recommends annual, routine screening for women over 40.

Adds DeVries, “Besides the advantages of being able to see more detail and send images electronically, there are certain subsets of women for which digital mammography is particularly helpful in seeing abnormalities: women under 50 with dense breasts, and also pre- and peri-menopausal women.”

Since the transition to digital mammography, Blankespoor has seen an increase in patients coming to OCAHS for their screening mammograms. However, as important as digital mammography is to early breast cancer detection, other services related to breast health are just as vital.

“It’s important to us that we offer women a continuum of care,” explains Guthmiller. “That means providing a full range of both diagnostic and treatment services — on site — including stereotactic breast biopsies, sentinel lymph node biopsies, lumpectomies and mastectomies, chemotherapy, and more.”

Guthmiller adds, “We encourage our patients to learn as much as they can about the breast health services offered, and to ask their doctor if they can receive those quality services here, for convenience and peace of mind.”

Orange City Area Health System is a comprehensive healthcare provider with three family practice clinics, hospital, radiology, comprehensive surgical services, obstetrics and birthing center, home health and hospice, two nursing homes, and a senior living center. For news and events updates, people are encouraged to sign up for email newsletters at ocHealthSystem.org and join the health system’s Facebook page.