Patients make it all worthwhile

Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Frankie Smith, left, mammographer at Cox Monett Hospital, adjusts the hospital’s Hologic Selenia mammogram machine as fellow mammographer, Mary George, looks at a recent image provided by the machine ahead of seeing another patient on Tuesday. Those wishing to make a mammogram appointment may call 417-354-1138. File photo/The Monett Times

Cox Monett Hospital mammographers promote annual screenings

In the battle against breast cancer, those on the front lines have seen it all.

Among those is Frankie Smith, a mammography at Cox Monett Hospital for 11 years.

We see about 15 patients a week,” Smith said. “We get about a 50/50 mix; those who religiously come in for their screenings and those who come because it was recommended.”

Screenings take about 15 minutes and then are sent to a radiologist in Springfield to be read. technicians there determine if a follow-up visit in necessary.

“The patient will then go to Springfield for a diagnostic exam, an ultrasound and other tests,” Smith said. “They may even schedule a biopsy. But the patient will know, before they leave the building that day, whether there is nothing to worry about or if there is a probability of cancer.”

Smith said those appointments can vary in length.

“Plan on four hours and hope that it’s 30 minutes,” she said.

With advances in technology, Smith said it’s pretty easy to detect “something.”

“If I can see it, the patient can see it,” she said. “You pick up on the bigger things. The hope we have is the machines can pick up on it when no one else can see it.”

When a patient goes into the local hospital for a screening, there is a good chance they are somewhat trepidatious about the outcome.

“We are so sympathetic to them,” she said. “Who wouldn’t be? They’re scared. Our fear is that a patient will leave without a screening or without an appointment set up in Springfield for a diagnostic.”

Most doctor recommend women start getting annual scans beginning at the age of 40. And if a patient is called back, it is not necessarily a negative outcome.

“There can be a lot of reasons a patient is called for another scan,” Smith said. “Any movement will blur the scan, so they will take another to get a clearer image. There may be some superimposed tissue, of the radiologist just wants a different angle.”

Having gone through a scare when her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, Smith is more than familiar with both sides of the story, not just the technical applications.

“This is a great organization to work for,” she said. “I know first-hand how they treat their patients and hold their hands throughout the whole thing.”

CoxHealth Systems now collaborates with Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks in Springfield.

“Women can fill out an application on the BCFO website and get a voucher for a free mammogram,” Smith said. “They are a wonderful organization.”

Smith is a passionate advocate for mammogram screenings.

““Our patients make this all worthwhile,” she said. “I can’t stress the importance enough. Self-exams and knowing your body and noticing any changes is crucial to early detection.”

Individuals do not need a doctor’s referral for a screening. To make an appointment, people may call 417-354-1138.

In Monett, those going in for screenings should wear a mask for protection against the spread of COVID-19. Employees at Cox-Monett Hospital are masked, gloved and don glasses to protect their patients against possible exposure.

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