Breast cancer diagnosis better defined

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Enhancement: Community Hospital offers advanced Positron Emission Mammography (PEM), which helps further define a breast cancer diagnosis. Nurse Suzanne Ruiz (left) and Dr. Mary Nicholson, a fellowship-trained breast radiologist, use the new equipment that adds 3D imaging capabilities to the comprehensive breast cancer services available through Community Hospital Women’s Diagnostic Center in Munster. | Supplied photo


Early last May, after Maria Lopez had a routine mammogram, her results came up suspicious and she was asked to have more follow-up tests and a breast MRI.

“I was scared when the technician said I needed to have a biopsy and they would leave a marker in my left breast; I really got upset. I felt I didn’t need more tests. I needed answers,” she said.

Instead, Lopez decided to go back to Dr. M. Nabil Shabeeb, a general surgeon on staff at Community Hospital in Munster, who she had seen 10 years earlier for another procedure. “I felt he could help me; I trusted in his care. He performed a core needle biopsy in his office which confirmed a cancer diagnosis. Then he referred me to Dr. Nicholson at the Women’s Diagnostic Center for a PEM test.”

Women like Lopez with a diagnosis of breast cancer are getting answers sooner, thanks to groundbreaking technology being used by the Community Hospital Women’s Diagnostic Center in Munster. Positron Emission Mammography (PEM) is an advanced imaging system that is being used to further define a breast cancer diagnosis.

“We are excited to introduce this revolutionary technology to better care for our patients,” said Mary Nicholson, MD, fellowship-trained, dedicated breast radiologist at Community Hospital and regional director of breast imaging services for Community Healthcare System. “Identifying new or recurrent breast cancer at the earliest stage possible gives each patient the best chance of a superior outcome.”

While PEM does not replace regular screening mammograms, it is an important supplemental tool — a type of molecular imaging — used to locate and determine best treatment for breast cancer. It offers the highest possible specificity allowing radiologists, breast surgeons and oncologists to study molecular abnormalities located inside tumor cells. Data gathered this way reveals accurate information regarding stages of cancer; determines the most appropriate treatment and finds cancer recurrence earlier.

A smaller version of the high-resolution Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner, PEM’s metabolic imaging allows the physician to make the optimal cancer care decision for masses as small as 1.6 mm, the size of a grain of rice, by providing an unprecedented ability to distinguish between benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) masses.

“Not only did PEM confirm that I did have cancer in my left breast, it found cancer in three areas,” Lopez said. “Then PEM found pre-cancerous tissue in my right breast,” she said.

“Breast cancer is very treatable if it is found early enough,” according to Nicholson. “Early detection truly does save lives,” she said.

More information is at

Provided by Community Healthcare System