When you need an answer today
An interview with Michael Morich, MD, PeaceHealth Southwest Breast Care Center
You went through the monthly motions of a breast self-exam and suddenly discovered a lump. You have just been told that you need additional tests. Fortunately, you don't need to spend precious energy on waiting and worrying. At PeaceHealth Southwest's Breast Care Center, we provide same-day results and do same-day biopsies, in a caring, comfortable setting. We are the first and only breast center in Clark County doing MRI-guided biopsies and localized treatments.
What can I expect to happen when I go to PeaceHealth Southwest's Breast Care Center?
All of our staff in the Breast Care Center share a service philosophy of compassionate care to provide same-day results whenever possible. In some cases this also means additional diagnostic testing, so we can take swift action when needed and put our patients' uneasiness to rest.
We know that for some women, it may be difficult to take several days off work for additional tests, or extended child care may be an issue. We also know that waiting for results can be stressful. (For example, in other breast centers, you may need multiple visits over several weeks or months to have a mammogram, additional tests and results.) We go out of our way to provide same-day tests and results so that we can create personalized, expedited treatment plans for each individual.
What kinds of tests may be done?
Depending on the situation, we may use different procedures. A mammogram is an image that helps identify unusual lumps or abnormal tissue in the breast. Sometimes traditional x-ray film is used, and sometimes digital images are taken, which can be viewed on a computer. Other types of images also may be used, such as an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
A biopsy may be done to examine cells from the lump or tissue under a microscope. If necessary, all or part of this material may be removed, by excision (cutting it out) or by a biopsy needle that extracts cells or tissue from the area of concern.
If a biopsy comes back positive for cancer, an estrogen and progesterone receptor test will be run to measure the levels of hormones in the cancerous tissue. The doctor can then determine whether these hormones affect how the cancer is growing, and whether it can be stopped with hormone therapy.
PeaceHealth Southwest is one of only two breast care centers in the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area that offers galactograms. This is a special test for abnormal nipple discharge, which is how some cancers are detected.
How should I prepare for a mammogram?
Typically a mammogram involves two x-rays of each breast: a top-to-bottom view and a side-to-side view. Plastic plates attached to the x-ray machine will compress each breast for a few seconds. This compression spreads out your breast so that small abnormalities won't be hidden.
To prepare for a screening mammogram:
- If you're still menstruating, schedule your test for the week after your period, when breasts are the least tender.
- Don't wear deodorant. It can interfere with the reading.
- Wear a two-piece outfit, not a dress, as you will need to remove your top during the mammogram.
The mammogram procedure should take about 20 minutes. If a screening mammogram spots unusual changes— or if a lump in your breast is discovered — you'll need a diagnostic mammogram.
Diagnostic mammograms involve more views of the breast than screening ones, and they also may produce more detailed pictures. Doctors use them to help diagnose breast changes that may require a biopsy.
Which is better for detecting breast cancer: an MRI or a mammogram?
According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that regular mammograms can reduce a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer by 30% or more. Mammograms are a highly recommended screening tool, but they don't find every breast cancer. Another approach— magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — may be useful for some women at high risk for breast cancer; for example, those who carry the genetic mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2.
MRI technology uses magnetic fields, radio waves, and computers to build more detailed, cross-sectional images. The MRI is often more sensitive than mammograms in finding breast lesions in dense tissue. In some cases, MRI may be a complement (but not a replacement) for mammograms. Southwest was the first breast center in Clark County to offer breast MRIs.
What's different about PeaceHealth Southwest's Breast Care Center?
PeaceHealth Southwest's Breast Care Center is the only facility in Clark County that routinely provides same-day diagnostic workups and gives same day results with the latest technology. Just as importantly, we are committed to providing each and every woman seamless care that is dignified, accurate and compassionate. Our philosophy is to provide a swift diagnosis in an environment that promotes comfort, healing and medical excellence.
Thousands of uninsured and underinsured women in nine counties throughout Southwest Washington receive free mammograms and annual examinations each year through the Washington State Breast and Cervical Health Program (BCHP). PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center is the prime contractor, where many of the program recipients are seen at the Breast Care Center.
We are committed to offering our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, friends and ourselves the best care right here in Clark County. That's why PeaceHealth Southwest is building a new Breast Care Center. This facility will include more exam and treatment rooms, the latest in breast imaging technology, highly qualified staff, as well as education and support space designed for the special needs of women.
How can I find out more about same-day tests and treatment?
PeaceHealth Southwest's Breast Care Center is located on the second floor of the Physicians' Pavilion of Southwest Washington Medical Center, off the 92nd Ave. entrance from Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver. Learn more by going to Breast Care Center or calling 360.514.6161 (360.514.4180 TTY).
About Dr. Morich
As one of the experts for the Breast Care Center and Breast Imaging Services at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, Michael Morich specializes in diagnostic radiology. Dr. Morich completed fellowship studies which included mammography, breast procedures, and breast ultrasound. He also completed training in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
You can locate a doctor to help you with cancer care (oncology) on our Find a Doctor area.
Published October 2007.