Keesler Mammography Clinic raises the bar for patient care

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

“One of eight ladies are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Barchie, 81st Diagnostic and Therapeutics Squadron diagnostic imaging medical director. “It impacts a lot of people and everybody is at a high risk for it.”


With the high rate of breast cancer, the mammography clinic at Keesler Medical Center set out to earn the Breast Center of Excellence certification, the first and only in the Air Force.


After Barchie arrived to the KMC in 2012 from San Antonio where they had the Army’s first Breast Center of Excellence certification, he sat down with the mammography clinic staff and they set a three year goal to become the Air Force’s first Breast Center of Excellence.


“There’s a lot of administrative hurdles and a lot of different upgrades we had to do to be able to achieve it,” said Barchie. “We not only have to be accredited in mammography, but we have to get accredited by the American College of Radiology in breast ultrasound, breast ultrasound biopsy and stereotactic breast biopsy.”


The college observes in detail the procedures, the quality of the images, the technique in how the clinic is doing the biopsies to look at the accuracy and safety, as well as how often cancer is found compared to how many biopsies are performed.


“There’s a lot of tracking and maintenance that goes into [the certification] but it’s important because it shows the good work that our people are doing around the Air Force,” said Barchie. “We know that we’re putting everything we have into not only providing good care but the best care to our patients.”


After completing all the requirements, the mammography clinic reached their goal of obtaining the certification in exactly three years.


“We just re-certified for another three years,” said Barchie. “To keep the certification, we have to keep ensuring our images are top quality and that we’re keeping the amount of radiation that we’re exposing the patients to a minimum. We have to continually show the American College of Radiology the good work that we’re doing.”


The mammography clinic did not only become the first Air Force clinic to receive the certification, they also became the first to become a fully 3D department with Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, an advanced form of breast imaging that uses computer reconstructions to create 3D images of the breasts.


“We got our first machine in 2015 and in 2016 we became fully 3D,” said Barchie. “We found that it doubled our cancer detection rate and it also decreased the amount of time we had to call people back for additional imaging. We’re finding cancer smaller and earlier, and we’re finding more of them before they grow.”


On top of all of those advancements, the clinic pressed ahead with a new way to localize cancers.


Barchie said the first step in treatment once the cancer is found is typically surgery to remove it. On the morning of the surgery the patient comes in to have a wire placed through the skin to mark where the cancer is. The wire hangs out of the skin until the surgeons are able to perform the surgery.


“It’s not comfortable to have a wire sticking out of you for half a day,” said Barchie. “It’s not a good experience. What we’ve done is we use a new device called the Savi Scout. It’s a little marker we can place a month or a couple weeks in advance and it stays inside the patient. When they come back the day of the surgery they don’t have to get a wire at all and the surgeons have a wand where they can detect the little device to show them where the cancer is.”


The clinic is the first in the Defense Department to use this technology.


“This goes into the center of excellence,” said Barchie. “It’s more of an attitude of expectation we hold for ourselves. We want to go beyond the standard of care, we want to set the standard of care and provide our patients, our family, with the care they deserve.”


Barchie said the most priceless thing to see is when a patient comes in with cookies to say thank you as they prepare to move on to their next duty station, cancer free.