TETWP donation funds new 3D tomosynthesis machine
by Alan Wartes


Tough Enough to Wear Pink this fall donated a 3D tomosynthesis mammography machine to Gunnison
Valley Hospital. Seen here is GVH chief executive officer Rob Santilli (left) and the director of diagnostic
imaging, Ben Guska, standing next to the new machine.

It makes sense that a community like the Gunnison Valley — which sets Tough Enough to Wear Pink (TETWP) fundraising records every year at Cattlemen’s Days — should have state of the art breast cancer detection equipment right here at home. All that TETWP money stays in the local community, after all, to directly help those fighting through a cancer diagnosis.

As of this year, that’s exactly what’s happened. This summer Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) received a cutting-edge 3D tomosynthesis mammography machine, purchased and donated by the local TETWP chapter.

Tomosynthesis is a step up from traditional 2D mammography because a series of x-rays are taken and then combined to form a 3D image. According to breastcancer.org, the resulting diagnostic tool is much more reliable and less likely to produce “false positives.”

“A false positive is when a mammogram shows an abnormal area that looks like a cancer but turns out to be normal,” the website states. “Ultimately, the news is good: no breast cancer. But the suspicious area usually requires follow-up with more than one doctor, extra tests, and extra procedures, including a possible biopsy. There are psychological, physical, and economic costs that come with a false positive.”

TETWP Executive Director Heidi Sherratt Bogart said the $360,000 purchase is the largest single donation in the organization’s history.

The machine is also better able to detect early signs of cancer in breast tissue that is more dense than usual — a common occurrence among women who are more physically active than most.

“Because this community is so active there is likely a higher incidence of breast density,” said Bogart. “Up until now, you had to definitely travel to get that kind of diagnostics performed. Our goal is to keep everyone here. So this was a need for a majority of the population in this valley.”

Bogart said the addition of the new machine brings GVH on par with one of the best breast cancer facilities in the state — Invision Sally Jobe, a multispecialty imaging network available on the Front Range.

GVH in recent months has worked to improve the quality of radiology readings — forming a new partnership with Radiology Imaging Associates (RIA) which will allow the new 3D machine to be utilized to its fullest. RIA is a group of 90 radiologists located in Denver, all of whom are subspecialists in their particular field, said GVH spokesman Tyler Hansen. It is the same group that runs Invision Sally Jobe.

“When that level of expertise is coupled with a piece of equipment as advanced as our new 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography machine we can offer a level of quality that rivals absolutely anywhere in the state,” said GVH Chief Executive Rob Santilli.

Santilli expressed his thanks to TETWP, and offered that the community is “better and healthier” because of the organization. He credited the donation with enabling GVH to take a “giant leap forward in breast care service.”

(Alan Wartes can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or alan@gunnisontimes.com.)

Published Gunnison Country Times, 2017 Healthy Living Special Publication