ETMC CCL Now Offers More Comfortable Mammograms
Special to The Monitor
GUN BARREL CITY-ETMC Cedar Creek Lake now provides a new product that dramatically eases the discomfort many women feel when they get a mammogram.
The FDA-cleared foam cushion, called MammoPadr, creates a softer, warmer mammogram. 
"The discomfort many women feel during mammography compression is widely known to be a reason that some don't get regular screenings," Jill Sparling RT (R ) (M) said.
"In addition to compression, the cold surfaces and hard edges of the mammography device can make the experience uncomfortable for some patients.
"The breast cushion answers these complaints by providing a soft warm cushion for the breast during mammography," she explained. 
"And because women are more relaxed during the exam, it makes it even easier for mammography technologists to get the best possible image," she added.
The single-use, adhesive-backed foam cushion attaches to the compression plates of the mammography device. 
It was developed by Stanford University breast surgeon Gale Lebovic, M.D., who understood mammography discomfort from both a physician and patient's point of view. 
The recyclable breast cushion is "invisible" to X-rays and does not interfere with the image quality of the mammogram.
"We try to create the best possible experience for our patients," Sparling said. "We're pleased to be able to offer our patients this important enhancement." 
For more information on mammography services at ETMC Cedar Creek Lake, please call (903) 713-1504.
The American Cancer Society reports women can greatly reduce their risk of death from breast cancer if they receive regular mammograms. 
For this reason, both the society and the American College of Radiology recommend that women 40 and older receive mammograms yearly. 
Yet despite the urgency of this message, nearly 40 percent of American women don't get regular recommended mammograms. 
Studies have shown mammography pain is a major reason some women do not return for annual screening. 
The new foam cushion could help reverse this trend. MammoPad has been clinically studied in both the U.S. and Sweden, where evaluations in more than 1,300 patients found approximately 70 percent experienced a significant reduction in pain when the cushion was used.
"Early detection of breast cancer can make the crucial difference between life and death," Sparling said. 
"Mammograms identify lumps that a woman's self-exam wouldn't find until an average of 1.7 years later. That is why regular mammograms are the only scientifically proven way to reduce breast cancer mortality. This breast cushion removes a major barrier to women receiving this important procedure," she added.
ETMC Cedar Creek Lake is part of the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System - a nationally recognized system of hospitals that seeks to maximize the quality and level of care offered by each community's hospital. 
ETMC hospitals include those in Athens, Carthage, Clarksville, Crockett, Fairfield, Gilmer, Jacksonville, Mt. Vernon, Pittsburg, Quitman, Trinity and Tyler.


Breast Cancer/Lymphedema Survivor Helps Others
By Toni Garrard Clay
Special to The Monitor

When Celia Bass received a call from Dr. Ken Lemmon in December of 1997, she didn't think a thing about it. 
At that time she was the intensive care unit manager at East Texas Medical Center Athens. Bass regularly spoke with Lemmon, her own physician, about other patients.
With a family history of breast cancer, she started having mammograms in her 30s. The results were always fine.
"I was trying to do it every couple of years," recalled Bass. "I had one done in December, and I expected it to be normal as always."
When she returned Dr. Lemmon's call, it wasn't about another patient. 
He was concerned about the results of her recent mammogram.
"It was right around Christmas time, and we were going that evening to a big Christmas party. Then he told me they had found something suspicious."
The very same day, she met with Dr. Harold Smitson.
"He said, 'You need to go see a surgeon today.' I was stunned. Of course, I know it happens, but when it's you, it's: 'Oh, dear.'"
By the end of the day, Bass had met with Dr. Dan Pugh, a local surgeon, who told her a biopsy would have to be done.
"My husband and I had planned to go to Branson on vacation the next day and stay for five days, so I asked him if I could still go," recalled Bass, then added with a wry laugh, "He said, 'I'll let you go, if you promise not to worry about it.'
"I managed not to while we were there, but on the drive there and back, I worried. 
"Along the way, I stopped to get appliqu‚s for something I was working on. The thought kept creeping in: 'What if you're not able to put these on?'"
Immediately upon her return, Bass had the biopsy and went back to running the ICU.
"A week or so passed, and pathology came back. When I heard Dr. Pugh's voice . I knew. He said, 'It's malignant, and you have to have a lumpectomy.'
"I was stunned again."
The surgery was scheduled a few days after Christmas, followed by six weeks of radiation, five days a week. Because of the relatively small size of the tumor, it was determined Bass would not need chemotherapy.
"I would go to ETMC Tyler to have the radiation therapy and then come back to work here at the ICU. Managing the ICU is the kind of job you really need to stay on top of, and I didn't feel bad enough not to work."
Bass also confessed staying busy kept her mind off things.
"My coworkers were really supportive," she said, "as well as my family and the doctors here. People were very nice about it."
Bass has been a registered nurse since 1964. She was at ETMC Athens the day it opened, having previously worked at the Henderson County Memorial Hospital.
"I've done most everything I've wanted to do in the nursing field and a few I didn't plan on," laughed Bass, who is now a case manager at ETMC Athens. "I like hospital nursing the best."
A year after successfully completing her course of radiation treatment, she noticed while on a trip with her husband that her ring finger was swollen.
"I didn't give it much thought," she said.
Not long after that, she was at work in the ICU when she suddenly realized her left hand was swollen.
"I looked at my hand and I said, 'Oh, my gosh. I have lymphedema.' I just knew it that second."
Lymphedema is a chronic swelling in the arm or hand (or both) due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluid. It's caused when lymph vessels - which normally move the excess fluid out of the limbs - have had their flow interrupted. About 15 or 20 percent of patients who have underarm lymph nodes removed in order to stage or treat their breast cancer will develop the condition.
"Well, then it was every day to Tyler again to have my arm massaged and wrapped and put in a stocking," said Bass. "Treatment lasted a while, then it got better. Then it came back. By then I could wrap it myself."
To this day, her left arm and hand have a slightly larger circumference than her right arm and hand. It's something she's learned to live with.
"The lymphedema bothered me more than the cancer and the radiation," she said. "It didn't hurt; it was just uncomfortable. And having the arm wrapped and in a stocking made me so hot.
"I remember sitting in the car and crying about it. Finally, I thought, 'What can I do? I can't change it. I'll make lemonade out of it.'"
Bass's way of making lemonade was to develop an education program about lymphedema she could present to different groups. She also wrote an information sheet to be distributed to appropriate ETMC Athens patients.
"It made me feel better," she said. "You sure don't want to volunteer for this experience, but once it's happened, you can be helpful to others."
In fact, she believes her experience has made her a more empathetic person.
"I'm more aware now of what people are going through," she said. "I can relate to getting a diagnosis like that and going through treatment."
Bass reports to her doctor for checkups every year. She's approaching nearly 10 years of being cancer free, and in between checkups, she doesn't spend time worrying about what-ifs.
"It's been a life-changing experience," she said. "Sometimes you get caught up worrying about the silly things, and I'll say to myself, 'OK. How big is this compared to having cancer?' Hmm. Not too big."
"All of my ETMC doctors and other caregivers were excellent," Bass added. "I attribute my current healthy status to my faith in a higher power, friends and family and the medical community in East Texas."