Article written by Asha Gilbert for Coastal Courier.
At Liberty Regional Medical Center, the radiology department has seen an increase in patients making appointments for mammograms. “We’re so busy recently, we had to extend hours to keep up with patients,” said Director of Imaging Services, Carrie Strickland. Strickland has worked for LRMC for 26 years.
With the increase in patients making mammography appointments, the department extended hours on Monday and Tuesday to 7p.m. and on Saturdays they’re seeing about 20 patients. “We’re doing a lot more procedures than before with the new radiology group,” Strickland said.
LRMC contracted with South Radiology Services to provide radiologists to the department. The contract went into effect on July 1, 2018. Dr. James McClellan is the lead radiologist and one of the lead interpreting physicians. “He is the mammography specialist,” Strickland said.
McClellan was the chief radiologist at Fort Stewart before retiring from active duty. While active, he would come to LRMC radiation department and moonlight with Dr. Ferris, a former radiologist for the department.
While interpreting a mammogram, most radiologists use the BIRADS or Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System established by the American College of Radiology. BIRADS scale a mammography in categories one – six. A category 1 BIRAD means negative findings, while a category 6 BIRAD means biopsy proven breast cancer. “We’ve had lots of category 4 and 5 BIRADS,” McClellan said. “We’ve had 5 category 5 BIRADS in the last two to three weeks.”
Lead mammography technician, Anita White, has been with LRMC for the last 24 years. In August, she had pain in her breast and had a mammogram. McClellan looked at her mammogram and saw cancer. White is 55 and has no family history of breast cancer in her family. “Women don’t need to wait to have a mammogram,” White said. “You need to have yearly screenings.”
LRMC plans to begin construction on an onsite oncology infusion center next year. The project will be mostly funded by the Georgia Rural Tax Credit. “Women who don’t come to get their mammograms in a timely fashion will have more advanced breast cancers that are harder to treat”, McClellan said.