An estimated 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. This year alone, more than 300,000 new cases of both invasive and non-invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.
There is a bright spot: mortality rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1989. Experts believe that mammograms and other sophisticated imaging options are offering life-saving insights while early detection and advancements in treatment options are radically improving the disease prognosis.
While technology cannot eliminate the fear and anxiety related to a breast cancer diagnosis, it is empowering patients by allowing them to advocate for the best care possible.
Tools powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and using cloud-based image sharing allow images to be seen by all care team members and consulting specialists around the country in the matter of minutes.
The quick access these tools provide is vital: when radiologists have quick access to prior mammography images, they can see important changes to breast tissue over time – allowing for more precise and accurate diagnoses.
Technology also means that breast cancer patients can be more equal partners in their own care. They can access their health data on their own devices. They can check their test results, view complete histories and take a more active role in their healthcare decisions from the very beginning.
With the data more accessible and viewable to a broader network of physicians, it is easier and less intimidating for patients to seek a second opinion or challenge a care or testing recommendation.
This ease of access is a vast improvement over just a few years ago, when patients – especially in rural settings – were burdened with the responsibility to maintain and travel with prior mammography images, burned to CDs, from specialist to specialist.
These CDs, and the images they stored, were vulnerable to being misplaced or damaged along the way. Too often the CDs were incompatible with a radiologist’s PACS system, leading to delays in diagnosis, while duplicate images were obtained. For those women who already felt worried and vulnerable, it was unnecessarily stress inducing.
Putting time on the patient’s side
“New technology is allowing patients to access their own health data and take the next steps in treatment quicker than ever. Hopefully the trend of patients actively using such tools to become their own best advocates may produce even better longevity statistics in the future,” said John C. Frenzel, MD, CMIO of MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“Not only have they been living with the disease, but are oftentimes reading the latest investigational research and tracking their health status,” added Dr. Frenzel. “As a result, patients have developed a unique expertise on their type and stage of cancer. Having the opportunity to document their journey is a powerful part of the experience and – if leveraged—can translate to better care delivery and outcomes.”
Every patient’s cancer journey is unique. While technology can’t solve every challenge, we are proud of our role in facilitating the way data is shared and accessed to help patients regain some sense of control and empower them to fight for the best care possible.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Nuance hosted the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Mammography Van at our Burlington, Mass. headquarters so employees could quickly and conveniently access high-level care.
We at Nuance would like to extend our gratitude to our many partners and clients who continue to make incredible strides against breast cancer. Together, we are making the journey a little easier, one patient at a time.
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