By: Jordan Regas Photo by: Jarred Schuetze
Dr. Michael Michell sits inside the reading room where he and the rest of the Breast Imaging Team at Radiology Associates spend most of their time analyzing mammograms and ultrasounds. The team is made up of a specialized group of four doctors who share a love for breast imaging and solely focus on it. “We formed it because we take breast imaging very seriously and feel it’s important and best done by people who have a real passion for it, are trained at it, and see a lot of it,” says Dr. Michell.
The Breast Imaging team is composed of highly experienced and fellowship trained doctors. Members include Dr. Michael Michell, Dr. Mailan Cao, Dr. Kenneth Cook, and Dr. Robert Yang.
All of them spend the majority, if not all of their time, on breast imaging, with the goal to find as much cancer as possible, as early as possible.
The team conducts close to 40,000 screening mammograms a year, along with ultrasounds, breast MRIs, and biopsies. However, it’s not just a simple, standard mammogram according to Dr. Michell. There is a whole system and team of people in place, including technologists, physicians, and office staff that help patients through the entire process. “When you come for a screening mammogram, you are actually becoming a part of a screening program. You can trust that you have experts looking at the films,” says Dr. Michell.
Patient and community education are important to the team. The Breasting Imaging team follows the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging guidelines and recommends annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40. “We feel very strongly that you should start your screening at age 40 and get it done once a year. We feel that is your best chance to catch it when it’s small,” says Dr. Michell.
According to Dr. Michell, there are multiple warning signs women should be aware of.
“The most obvious is the breast lump. They should take a lump seriously and tell their doctor about it. Bloody nipple discharge, changes on the skin, skin dimpling or if something looks different on the skin are some of the main signs.”
There are other things to be aware of as well, such as family history of breast cancer. “It is important to be aware of those things to know if you are at an elevated risk and need to start screening earlier or if you could benefit from a breast MRI or additional screening tests,” says Dr. Michell.
The team meets frequently and conducts quarterly quality meetings, where they look at numbers, talk about cases, and see what they can do better. They support and help each other to achieve their goal of finding cancer as early and as small as possible. “We see these patients at a bad time for them, when we have to tell the patient they have breast cancer, but then it is very rewarding when we see them two, three, or four years down the road and they are back to living a good life and made it through all those things. Then we know we have done our job. We identified the cancer when it was early enough to be treated for them to have a good outcome and for them to get back to a good life,” says Dr. Michell.