Beyond Images: Breast Radiology
Pictured: Dr. Debbie Bennett
Specialization, Team Approach Set SLUCare Breast Imaging Apart
Because she liked studying images and pictures, Dr. Debbie Bennett gravitated toward specializing in radiology during med school at Harvard. There was only one issue: general radiologists rarely deal directly with patients. She quickly learned breast imaging allowed her to have direct — and important — interaction with her patients. She was hooked. "During residency, what struck me was you had the chance to be present at an extremely important time in someone's life, to deliver good or bad news," says Bennett, director of breast imaging for SLUCare Physician Group. "At that moment, especially with bad news, you have one chance to make it better or make it worse for the patient. I wanted the chance to make it better."
We feel lucky and grateful to specialize, it allows us to focus all our time and energy on each mammogram, as well as on the latest advances in the industry."
SLUCare breast radiologists specialize in breast imaging at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital and SSM Health St. Clare Hospital. Unlike hospitals where the radiologist might study a breast image in the morning and then a knee MRI in the afternoon, the SLUCare team devotes its time entirely to mammography. "We feel lucky and grateful to specialize," says Bennett, who is also the medical director for SSM Health St. Louis breast imaging. "It allows us to focus all our time and energy on each mammogram, as well as on the latest advances in the industry," she says. "I work with awesome women who bring a great mix of training and experience to our division. We have seen a lot of different cancers so we know what we're looking for. We all get along very well, which is rare in any field. And it is great to have a second set of eyes for a certain image or to talk a challenging case through with each other."
St. Louis native Kathleen Kelly cannot think of a better place to be tested. She has had three siblings die of cancer and two others diagnosed with it. She herself has undergone two biopsies, and she has regular breast exams and mammograms, all at SLUCare's breast center. "I wanted to go to the place that had the most qualified professionals to get the best care I could," Kelly says. "Early detection can mean the difference between life and death. I find the doctors there very professional, upbeat and friendly. It's uncomfortable every time you have to have these types of tests, but they could not be nicer."
Bennett understands anxiety is present each time a patient arrives, even for a routine mammogram. When a biopsy is required, that anxiety is heightened. Communication with the patients is critical throughout the process. "I think that is sort of the crux of everything we do," Bennett says. "We always have to remember that whether we are physically in front of a patient or not, there is a patient. This is not just about a picture. Patients pick up on everything we do, verbal or nonverbal. It's very important that we get across the information and be honest, but also empathetic. We need to know where they are coming from so we can meet them where they are most comfortable."
By: Megan Ortiz