Yoakum Community Hospital receives a $20,000 Power Up grant toward the purchase of 3D mammography equipment. From left: Ronald L. Leck, hospital board trustee; John Olivares, hospital CFO; Clay Hermann, hospital board trustee; Karen Barber, hospital CEO; Becky Kollaus, R.T. (R)(M) Mammographer and Registered Radiologic Technologist; Shari Johnson, GVEC representative; and Elorine Sitka, hospital board chair.

At Yoakum Community Hospital, service, compassion and empathy are the top priorities when it comes to treating patients. Mammographer and Registered Radiologic Technologist Becky Kollaus R.T. (R)(M) describes Yoakum Community Hospital (YCH) as having “true compassion for patients.” Kollaus drives 45 minutes each way to work every day, even though three other hospitals are closer to where she lives. YCH’s devotion to compassionate care, Kollaus explained, makes it easily worth the longer commute.

A New Kind of Mammography Experience

At Yoakum Community Hospital, service, compassion and empathy are the top priorities when it comes to treating patients. Mammographer and Registered Radiologic Technologist Becky Kollaus R.T. (R)(M) describes Yoakum Community Hospital (YCH) as having “true compassion for patients.” Kollaus drives 45 minutes each way to work every day, even though three other hospitals are closer to where she lives. YCH’s devotion to compassionate care, Kollaus explained, makes it easily worth the longer commute.

The Pristina is a type of 3D mammography equipment. Each scan with a 3D machine takes multiple pictures of breast tissue all at once from multiple angles. Traditional mammography equipment—also known as 2D machines—takes one picture at a time, one angle at a time.

With 2D technology, Kollaus explained, the radiologist takes between four and six x-rays per patient to create “flat,” one-dimensional imagery. The Pristina, on the other hand, can take up to 100 images per scan. Technologists like Kollaus take between 400 and 600 images per patient with the Pristina, allowing doctors to compile dynamic, clear, multi-angle views of breast tissue from the inside.

“We can detect breast cancer as small as half a centimeter with this machine,” Kollaus said. “With older technology, the cancer needed to be at least a centimeter in size to spot. And the smaller the breast cancer is when you catch it, the greater your chances of survival.”

For Women by Women

In the small, rural communities between and around San Antonio and Austin, it’s not easy to find a 3D machine, Kollaus said, making Yoakum’s machine critical in helping meet an unmet need within the area. The Pristina marks an evolution of 3D technology: Its radiation exposure is somewhat lower than that of older 3D technology.

Vivid 3D imagery, greater diagnostic precision and lower radiation exposures are only part of what makes the Senographe Pristina special, though. “As far as I know,” Kollaus said, “this is the first mammography machine to use an all-female team to design and create it.” GE has marketed the Senographe Pristina as “Engineered by Women, for Women.” The all-female team that developed the device approached the project from a design philosophy that sought to blend science with empathy, and that, according to Kollaus, is what makes this machine such a good fit at YCH.

“The whole experience with this machine is so much different [compared to 2D machines],” she said. “Women walk away smiling and talking about how much easier having a mammogram is.” Kollaus has experienced the patient side of the Pristina, too, and has had mammography done on older machines, allowing her to confirm for herself what patients tell her every day.

“If you look at this machine side by side with older mammography machines, the differences aren’t obvious,” she said. “But when you get a test done, you can definitely feel the difference. There are no sharp edges; everything is rounded and smooth. The breast compression isn’t nearly as intense—patients even have control over the amount of compression. And the surface where bare skin touches the machine is warm. It’s just a whole different experience—this machine is truly amazing. It helps us create an environment where women feel like they’re at a spa instead of having some cold test done on an impersonal piece of lab equipment.”

Power Up for Hometown Care

YCH received a $20,000 Power Up grant during 2018 toward the purchase of the Senographe Pristina. Kollaus thanked GVEC members for their support in helping make cutting-edge mammography possible in Yoakum. The Pristina allows local patients to benefit from big city technology in a hometown setting where compassion and personalized care are as important as any pill, procedure or scan. “The Power Up grant has made a huge difference in the quality of care available to women here,” Kollaus said. “Our patients no longer have to travel to Austin or San Antonio for 3D mammography. The community thanks GVEC and its members, and YCH thanks them for considering us and for being a strong, dependable partner in the community.”

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