Breast cancer awareness month highlights importance of screening mammograms: Technologists, equipment helping in fight

HARLINGEN — With October serving as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen is encouraging women to take control of their health and schedule their screening mammograms.

Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in American women. One in eight women will develop the disease at some point in her life. However, when breast cancer is detected early – often through the help of screening mammograms – it’s one of the most treatable forms of cancer.

The Breast Center at Valley Baptist is located on the first floor of the Valley Baptist Professional Building, 2101 Pease Street in Harlingen (Professional Building Entrance B). A physician referral for a screening mammogram is not needed for women 40 years and older, but an appointment is required.

Joey Govea, Director of Radiology at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, said that his staff takes extra care to put nervous patients at ease.

“We want to make our patients feel as comfortable as possible, so we start with valet parking. Patients walk into the waiting area, sign in, and from there the technologists review everything that will happen with the patient and make them as comfortable as possible,” he said. “From a patient’s perspective, of course there is anxiety. But from our side, we want our patients to know that once they’re here, we’ve got them and we’re going to take care of them.”

With years of experience in caring for patients, Govea said the Breast Center’s six mammogram technologists often build longstanding relationships with the community they serve.

“They develop special relationships with their patients, and many times they’ve all got their own clientele,” he said. “Patients will often call and request technologists by name. They remember who takes care of them, and that’s what we bring to the table.”

Breast Center Supervisor Rebecca Hernandez, RT, said her staff utilizes some of the most high-tech equipment when caring for patients, including the Rio Grande Valley’s first and only 3-D “digital tomosynthesis” or “TOMO” mammography unit that can provide more information for certain women who need a screening mammogram, including women with dense breast tissue or those who are receiving their first screening mammogram.

“In some cases, this new mammography technique provides advantages, especially for women with dense breasts, which includes many Hispanics,” she said. “We are hoping it will provide a more comfortable experience for the patient while they are receiving screenings for breast cancer.”

Govea said that in some cases, the new technology may allow radiologists at Valley Baptist to “see” breast cancers easier. The clearer, more accurate pictures are produced because the image is 3-dimensional — like a box which can be seen from all sides — instead of 2-dimensional, like a rectangle on a flat piece of paper.

“A regular digital mammogram would be kind of like looking at the front cover of a book. With TOMO you’re flipping the pages and can see different depths of breast tissue,” he said. “TOMO can provide a greater opportunity for the radiologist to determine potential issues without having the patient come back for additional tests like ultrasounds or biopsies.”

Valley Baptist is offering a special price of $99 for mammograms purchased through M.D. Save ( Purchase your mammogram during the month of October for $99 through M.D. Save, and then schedule your mammogram anytime during the year using your voucher. Price includes interpretation by a board certified radiologist.

“M.D. Save is very exciting for us,” Govea said. “This is a step toward making our advanced level of services available to everyone in our community.”

Govea also said that family and friends play an important role in encouraging women to take the time to schedule their regular screening mammograms.

“For the men out there, it is incumbent on us to be one of those nagging reminders for our wives, our moms, our aunts, our sisters and other loved ones to just get their mammograms,” he said. “October is breast Cancer Awareness Month, but mammograms can be performed year-round. There’s nothing embarrassing about it – it only takes five minutes and it can save a life.”

To schedule a mammogram, please call (956) 389-1852. For more information on breast cancer and mammography, consult your physician and visit