When a screening ultrasound found something her mammogram didn't

Friday, October 16, 2015

If you’re wondering about the value of an ABUS screening ultrasound, talk with Julie Jones, M.D., an anesthesiologist formerly on the Medical Staff at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH). Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer last December at age 53 – even after her mammogram results came back normal.

Like one in four women, Julie has dense breasts. Dense breast tissue can mask abnormalities on a mammogram. Last December, when Julie scheduled her annual routine mammogram at NCH, she also scheduled an ABUS screening ultrasound for the same day. “I’d known I had dense breasts since my first mammogram years ago,” she says.

The results of Julie’s mammogram showed no change; however, a few days later, she received a call from the radiologist saying he had seen something on the ultrasound. She came back to NCH for a diagnostic ultrasound.

“They found a 1.3-centimeter tumor,” says Julie. “I’ll never forget when the radiologist showed me the images from the mammogram, the ABUS ultrasound and the diagnostic ultrasound. There was nothing on the mammogram. There was a shadow on the ABUS ultrasound, and on the diagnostic ultrasound the tumor was quite defined.”

The next step was an ultrasound-guided biopsy, which ultimately confirmed the diagnosis of cancer. When it came time to choose a surgeon, Julie didn’t hesitate. “I chose Dr. Robert Aki to perform my lumpectomy at NCH. He’s an excellent surgeon, and he was very clear about treatment options.”

Julie is quick to admit, “Although I’m a doctor, breast cancer wasn’t on the top of my reading list until it happened to me. I’ve learned a lot.” One thing Julie learned is that the treatment options for women diagnosed with breast cancer today are so much better than they were just 10 or 15 years ago. “When a woman is diagnosed today, there are tests that can identify precisely what kind of breast cancer she has, and what treatments would be most appropriate,” she says.

Based on her own experience, Julie encourages other women with dense breasts to talk with their primary care doctor about having a screening ultrasound. “What if I had waited another year?” she wonders.

It’s important to note that women with dense breasts should still have an annual screening mammogram. And, according to Julie, “Whether it’s a mammogram or the ABUS ultrasound, a few minutes of temporary discomfort is worth it when you’re talking about information that can save your life.”

To schedule a mammogram, call 847-618-3700. To learn more about dense breasts, view the video.  

  • Robert Aki


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