Breast cancer is the most common type of invasive cancer among women in the United States and 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during the course of their lifetime, so taking steps to keep your breasts healthy is key.
Routine care is the best way to ensure breast health, and getting a regular mammogram plays a big role in detecting breast cancer at its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.
When found early when it is still localized, or restricted to the site of origin, without evidence of spread, breast cancer patients have a relative survival rate at five years of around 98%, according to the National Cancer Institute. When found at a late stage (spread to distant parts of the body), the breast cancer survival rate at five years drops to about 23%.
“It is quite devastating for patients when a cancer diagnosis is delayed,” says Dr. Laura Doepke, an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Radiological Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who specializes in breast imaging, particularly imaging of breast cancer. “I don’t want women to wait; we want to screen them, because we want to find it before you can feel it—the short-lived compression of the breast during a mammogram is absolutely worth the long-term benefits,” she adds.
Early detection and improved treatment have led to decreased mortality rates for those diagnosed with breast cancer, and screening reduces mortality by more than 40% in women 40 and older, says Dr. Doepke, also the medical director of the new UCLA Westlake Village Women's Imaging Center that recently opened its doors to provide local women with potentially life-saving imaging services.
“In an effort to reach the communities that previously had to drive to our central hubs in Westwood and Santa Monica, the Westlake Village Women’s Imaging Center offers a high level of care by highly specialized physicians—the majority are exclusively breast doctors,” says Dr. Doepke. “We know the need is there. Our primary care doctors in the area would really like for their patients to receive all their care nearby, so they don’t have to drive far. Patients are going to get the same care here in Westlake Village than if they’d driven to UCLA’s main centers in Westwood or Santa Monica,” adds Dr. Doepke, who also practices at UCLA Westwood, UCLA Santa Monica Barbara Kort Women’s Imaging Center, the breast imaging practice at the Motion Picture and Television Health Fund, and the Santa Clarita breast imaging facility, in addition to training residents and teaching UCLA fellows.
Open five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Westlake Village Women’s Imaging Center provides a full range of imaging services, including
- Interventional Procedures
- Mammography (2D and 3D)
As a professor of breast imaging at UCLA Health System since 2009, Dr. Doepke notes that technological advances in imaging, such as 3D mammography (Tomosynthesis), offer several advantages for patients.
“Breast imaging has changed a lot in the past 10 years, with the advent of 3D mammography, as well as new treatments for breast cancer, which are changing, improving and evolving over time,” she says, noting 3D mammography has been shown to detect more cancers earlier and to decrease the number of call-back rates.
The latest FDA-approved advancement to detect breast cancer early, 3D mammography provides a more detailed image of breast tissue and may uncover breast cancer that would otherwise be hidden by overlying breast tissue.
The technology provides radiologists with multiple, thin-section images, allowing the radiologist to evaluate breast tissue layer by layer. During the exam, the X-ray arm moves in a small arc over the breast, acquiring multiple low-dose images that are reconstructed into a 3D image.
Studies show 3D mammography increased invasive breast cancer detection rates by 40% and reduced call-back rates by 15%.
The Westlake Village Women’s Imaging Center accepts a wide range of insurance plans, including PPO (Blue Cross, Blue Shield, United Health Care, Cigna, Aetna) and HMO (IPA-UCLA Medical Group), as well as Medicare.
As a new technology, 3D mammography is not always a covered service for breast cancer screening under some insurance plans, however, the Westlake Village center offers patients without 3D mammography coverage a $45 copay for the service. They also include 3D mammography for most diagnostic imaging.
Medical guidelines recommend all women get a mammogram to scan breast tissue for tumors or other abnormalities that might be a sign of breast cancer. The Society of Breast Imaging and The American College of Radiology recommend an annual screening mammography beginning at age 40. Although there is some variation on recommendations on when to start screening and how often to screen, all societies agree that the most lives are saved by screening annually at age 40.
While screening for breast cancer may be an unpleasant process for many, the staff at the Westlake Village Women’s Imaging Center strive to create a positive experience for patients.
“It’s a beautiful center; we’ve done our very best—and we do a really good job at it—to make the Westlake Village center a calm and peaceful place to be,” says Dr. Doepke. “Breast imaging can be a fairly stressful process for patients, and we want to make it as calming as possible to create a high level of comfort for the patient.”
Thanks to early detection made possible by advanced imaging technologies, a breast cancer diagnosis is not a hopeless condition. Modern treatments that often involve a combination of surgery, radiation, drugs or hormones help many patients.
While a breast cancer diagnosis can be “very upsetting for patients, when they come back a year or so later and they’re cancer-free and they’re so happy, I just love that part of it—it makes my job all worth it,” adds Dr. Doepke.
Offering free patient parking, the Westlake Village Women’s Imaging Center is located on Russell Ranch Road, which circles behind the Westlake Village Costco, at 30700 Russell Ranch Road, Suite #110, in Westlake Village. Contact them at 818.661.6570 or schedule an appointment at 310.301.6800. Visit UCLAHealth.org/Radiology/WLVWIC to learn more.
Breast Imaging at UCLA provides a full range of high quality and innovative breast imaging studies, treatments and procedures to the greater Los Angeles area, with locations in Westwood, Santa Monica, Thousand Oaks, Santa Clarita, Toluca Lake, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes and Westlake Village.