A new take on 'the big squeeze'

Called "the big squeeze" by some women at Tri-County Hospital's Women's Night Out, mammograms took center stage at the health care event in Wadena and Verndale last week.

Carol Windels
Photo by Sara Hacking Carol Windels, radiology manager at Tri-County Hospital, gave a presentation on the hospital's new state-of-the-art digital mammography machine during last week's Women's Night Out events in Wadena and Verndale. Windels is pictured with the new machine and a rose that the hospital is currently giving to women who receive mammograms.

Called "the big squeeze" by some women at Tri-County Hospital's Women's Night Out, mammograms took center stage at the health care event in Wadena and Verndale last week.

Carol Windels, radiology manager at TCH, introduced 475 women in Verndale and Wadena to the hospital's new digital mammography technology.

"Early detection is the best weapon so why not have the best tools available to us," she said at the Lions Community Center in Verndale Oct. 21.

TCH is the only hospital within a 90-mile radius to offer digital mammography, Windels said. There is only one digital mammogram machine in Fargo. Others are located in the Twin Cities.

"It's like comparing ... a Polaroid picture to a digital camera picture," she said about the difference between film and digital mammograms.


They can zoom in on the images and magnify them to get very good, detailed pictures, Windels said. The radiologist can see the pores of the skin. Tiny areas of calcification are clearer and more specific, she said.

"This is the best technology if you have dense breasts or really fibrotic breasts," she said.

The technicians will be able to examine the pictures immediately after they are taken so they can tell if they need to be taken again, she said. The digital technology also allows the diagnostic imaging department to store the images in the Permanent Archival and Retrieval System (PACS) it installed in July.

Record retrieval is much simpler, Windels said. Everything is stored on the computer. The pictures will be available for people to take elsewhere.

"We'll burn a CD and you can take it with you," she said.

Another benefit is that exposure to radiation is 30 percent less than on a regular mammogram machine, she said.

One thing remains the same, however, when comparing digital to film mammography. Windels told the audience they would be disappointed with this particular fact.

"The actual mammogram exam on your end of the story is almost identical," she said causing a groan from the audience. "It's a vertical stand and there's that mean little paddle that's going to come down and compress your breast."


The temporary discomfort is worth it, though, according to Windels. She listed several breast cancer-related facts:

  • A woman's chances of developing cancer in her lifetime are one in eight.
  • A new cancer diagnosis is given every two minutes.
  • This year, breast cancer will take the life of one woman every 13 minutes in the United States.

It is important for women to get a baseline mammogram starting at age 40 and every year thereafter, Windels said. Women should also get a yearly clinical exam and do self exams once a month.
Mammograms are the only X-rays people can order themselves, she said. They don't need a doctor's order.

"Do it for the ones you love," Windels said.

"Mammography is the single most effective method of screening."

For more information or to schedule a mammogram call (218) 631-7466.

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