Dr. Ben Pettus, M.D., Ph.D., was honored to present a Grand Rounds lecture at Riverside Regional Medical Center. Grand Round lectures are an important teaching tool for physicians, and it is a great honor among physicians to be invited to speak. Grand Rounds lectures provide a great opportunity for collaboration and help keep health professional up to date in important or otherwise rapidly changing areas, including those which may be outside of their core practice. During his talk, Dr. Pettus covered many topics and information about breast imaging, but also addressed recent controversies surrounding mammography. Dr. Pettus stresses that mammography is highly beneficial and should be recommended, as regular mammography screenings have shown to save the lives of women.
Dr. Pettus received his PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biopathology relevant to the study and treatment of cancer, and earned his M.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. Dr. Pettus completed his internship at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, VA, and his post graduate training included a Residency in Diagnostic Radiology and a Fellowship in Mammography and Breast Imaging from the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Currently, Dr. Pettus is a general diagnostic radiologist, and a breast imaging & interventional specialist at Peninsula Radiological Associates, the sole radiological provider for the Riverside Health System.
Despite the abundant literature that supports the benefits of mammography, some controversies do exist. A first is related to a recent law passed in Virginia, which requires patients to be notified, via letter, of their breast density, and how this may affect the results of a mammography. Dr. Pettus clarifies, “Although breast density may make readings of breast screenings more challenging and does create some limitations in sensitivity, mammography remains an invaluable tool in detecting breast cancer”. Dr. Pettus stresses that patient education is crucial, and that physicians should strongly encourage patients to have their annual screenings. Women who receive a letter stating that they have elevated breast density, should request mammograms be performed with digital technique (which the entire Riverside System utilizes). If they have a strong family history they may benefit from a formal risk assessment to determine any potential role for additional imaging methods. Annual physical examination by a physician may also be of benefit as this may additionally allow for directed ultrasound approaches.
A second controversy is in regards to a policy statement recently released by the Federally Supported U.S. Preventative Services, which recommended against commonly accepted routine breast cancer screening methods for women in their forties. The American College of Radiology responded by stating, “The
recommendations make unconscionable decisions about the value of human life”. Dr. Pettus recommends that women should receive annual mammography screenings by the age of 40 or earlier for high-risk patients, so that cancers can be detected early to reduce mortality rates, and less invasive treatments can be preformed.
Breast Cancer is the most common cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in America. Before the onset of mammography screening, the death rate from advanced breast cancer remained unchanged for 50 years. However, since 1990, this rate has decreased by 30 percent, and recent studies suggest that mammograms may even be more effective than previously thought, reducing breast cancer mortality by more than 30 to 60 percent.
It is important for physicians to educate their patients on the benefits of mammography, and to provide them with the proper resources, so that they may make the best decisions for their well-being.