Breast Cancer in the Arab Nation: Louise Miller returns to Jordan

It had been four years since I had been to Amman, Jordan. Every two years, I have been invited to speak and teach at the Jordanian Breast Cancer Project’s Conference: Breast Cancer in the Arab Nations, which is co-sponsored by the world famous King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman.

I missed the conference two years ago due to my breast cancer diagnosis. So, when I arrived to give my first lecture, the room was filled with “old” friends, technologists and radiologists from throughout the Middle East that I had the pleasure of meeting at prior conferences over the years. I could not have had a warmer welcome back. Lots of hugs and kisses (three times on the cheek, which is the custom!) and selfies were taken.

They made me feel like the rock star of mammography! When the director introduced me formally, she told them that I was now a breast cancer survivor, and they were shocked. They did not know why I was absent two years ago. Now almost all of them (60+) said together “Praise God!” with smiles of acknowledgement and encouragement. Their warmth and receptivity brought me to tears.

I had gathered together some “giveaways.” You know, the stuff we give out for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (thanks Anita from Imaging Healthcare Specialists in San Diego for donating a cute pink ribbon manicure kit for each participant). I ordered all the stuff I could find on Amazon (that I could fit into my suitcase) and hit the Dollar Store the night before I left for extra treats to tuck into their little pink gift bags. You would have thought that I had given them the rarest and most treasured of gifts as I passed out the bags after my “welcome home celebration.”

The Jordanians are warm people; proud of their country, culture and heritage. The technologists I worked with were eager to learn; most spoke English, but perhaps some could only read my slides. Even if they didn’t understand what I was saying all the time (you have to speak slowly) they were enthusiastic and willing “students.” We had two mammography units, thanks to Fuji International, and the techs waited their turns, eager to try the positioning technique I was sharing with them. Even though some had attended in previous years, they wanted to show me their skills and improve if they could.

It is immensely gratifying to be part of such important educational efforts. As a volunteer working in many different, mostly developing or third world countries, I see an eagerness and receptivity that is hard to describe. I wish I could take all of you with me so you could have such an experience and feel the appreciation that is expressed for what you do. Again, please know that your fellow techs around the world feel the same struggles (if not more) and challenges you do. But also know that your/their role in breast cancer detection is critical, not only in this country, but in all countries that have the means to provide this life saving examination.

Memories, Mammaries! It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

It is now October 8th and the schedules are packed for the rest of the month. Some of you will be doing mammograms on evenings and weekends to in an attempt to “accommodate” all that want appointments in October and some of you will be doing the Breast Cancer Awareness Mammograms well into November to pick up those who could not get in. These are the days that are jammed with screening mammograms; not an open slot in sight. Implants, Invalids, Scoliosis and Scooters, they are all here for their 10-15 minute (sometimes less) appointments which often require extra time. Other patients wait and get anxious about waiting. Some complain, but most, gratefully, wait their turn.

You arrived early today, after weeks of planning, in high gear making sure the giveaways and/or freebies are neatly packed and set out. Others come in early to decorate the department with ribbons, streamers (not to be confused with “screamers”) and balloons. Oh my, how to think of something different each year for the giveaways and the décor!! How about hanging a giant a pink ribbon on the front of the building??? That was my crazy idea one year until I realized that this would involve renting a giant crane to hang it. Apparently, me throwing the whole thing off the top of the roof (and hoping it would miraculously land in a ribbon shape) was not acceptable to the “authorities.” Oh well! I would run to the balloon store and buy every breast cancer awareness balloon (or just pink balloons!) they had and hope they didn’t fizzle by the end of the month and if they did, we would just tape them to the wall. It was no surprise that after just 10 days most of the balloons stuck to the wall were a premonition of those patients’ breasts we were yet to see!

Oh and don’t forget the homemade cookies and treats that several of you stayed up late last night (after dinner and soccer practice) to bake to make sure your patients have something special this morning/all week/all month. By the end of the month, you are so tired you will be stopping at the grocery store or local bakery to pick up anything edible (day old, anyone?) but hey, it’s a treat for our patients! I can’t tell you how many times I have seen patients leave with their purses full of free graham crackers even when Breast Cancer Awareness month had long come and gone. Never mind the fact that you are spending your own time and money to make your patients feel special, especially this month.

I hope all our patients realize how much you care, but they often don’t. They grab their goodies, tell us how much they hate mammograms and ask us (at least 100 times per day) “Is this all you do all day long?” But, you still show up with a smile on your face and take on the task of imaging all shapes, sizes, and demeanors. “No problem!” We tell the patient with AAA or ZZZ breasts. “We do all sizes and shapes!”…”EOBS” (Equal Opportunity “Breast Squishers”J). But then there are those who smile when you are done and say, “Thank you for what you do.” Ahhh, you do make a difference! Remember how valuable your role is in this life saving endeavor. Even if you don’t hear it often enough, please hear it now from a technologist/patient whose breast cancer was found on a mammogram. I thank you all for your dedication, passion and perseverance. Keep hanging in there! There are only 23 days to go!

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month to you all!

Louise Miller

The Miller Method Hits Missouri

Mammography Educators consultant, Pam Fulmer, took her mammogram positioning expertise to the childhood hometown of Mark Twain earlier this month. Pam snapped these fun photos during her recent trip to Hannibal, Missouri where she helped to train the team at Hannibal Clinic and give their mammography positioning skills a tune up.

“The Hannibal Clinic techs are lucky because they have a nice, interactive relationship with their lead interpreting physician as well as the other radiologists that come to the clinic,” said Pam. “The have a very clear knowledge of mammography and what needs to be on the image. Still, we were able to improve the images by teaching them The Miller Method of standardized positioning.”

A resident of Missouri and past president of the Missouri Society of Radiologic Technologists, Pam enjoyed exploring the “Home of Mark Twain,” located on the Mississippi River, when she wasn’t working on positioning ergonomics. “When the day ended, the techs felt they had learned how to position working with the patient’s body habitus, rather than fighting it,” she said. “And I had time to explore this beautiful city!”

Bringing High Quality Mammograms to the Edge of the Continent

When you work in one of the most remote parts of our country, being a great mammography tech means more than producing high quality mammograms. As Mammography Educators consultant Robyn Hadley discovered during her recent visit to Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, Alaska, techs have serious pressure to keep to their schedule.

Located about 26 miles above the Arctic Circle, Kotzebue serves as the hub for 11 villages in the surrounding 30,000 miles. While some patients arrive at Maniilaq Health Center by snowmobile this time of year, most travel by plane. “Just getting patients to the facility for their mammogram and keeping their appointments on time to make sure they could catch the departing flight back to their village was a challenge,” said Robyn.

This photo of Kotzebue is courtesy of TripAdvisor. Small planes travel between Kotzebue and its surrounding villages twice a day.

In between teaching the Miller Method to the clinic’s staff, Robyn was able to explore a bit of subarctic Kotzebue where winter temperatures hover between 15 and 20 degree below zero.

She saw willow branches laced with reflectors to light the icy paths connecting Kotzebue to its surrounding villages, and she watched as residents used sleds to transport their mail and groceries.

Robyn embraced the opportunity to bring Mammography Educators’ breast positioning training to a distant part of the country. “I realized what a blessing it is to be part of a group that gets to do this,” she said. “It’s amazing to impact the lives of many even in the smallest, most remote edges of the continent!”

Mammography Educators is proud to provide high quality mammography consulting and training anywhere in the United States and throughout Canada. Find out more about our consulting services here.

In Honor of World Cancer Day

On World Cancer Day – and every day – Mammography Educators’ consultants travel throughout the U.S. and Canada to inspire breast imaging specialists to raise their standards of excellence and ultimately contribute to the early detection of breast cancer. It’s early February, and we’ve already covered a lot of ground!

From Florida to Alaska, California to New York, we have enjoyed numerous opportunities to introduce The Miller Method for mammography positioning to technologists and to provide the following educational opportunities:

Mammography Positioning Training

Mammography Accreditation and Inspection Preparation

MQSA EQUIP Initiative

Operations and Workflow Analysis

If your facility would like to learn the method that prepares the technologist to understand “the why” and “the how” of patient positioning for high quality mammograms, contact us.

Impact of Digital Mammography on Cancer Detection and Recall Rates

Published today in the journal of Radiology: In a large scale study of 11.3 million screening episodes in the English National Health Service Breast Cancer Screening Program, the overall cancer detection rate was 14 percent greater with digital mammography, with substantially higher detection of grade 1 and grade 2 invasive cancers—early-stage cancers that could advance to life-threatening disease if not detected and treated early enough.

Aiming for Quality: Tips for Achieving Optimal Imaging in a Suboptimal World, Part 1

As National Radiologic Technology Week (NRTW)® comes to an end, we want to remind you that it celebrates the important role medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals play in patient care and health care safety. SBI recently recognized the contribution of one of their technologist members, who also happens to be one of our consultants here at Mammography Educators, Dawn Derenburger, RTRM!

In the first in a two-part series, Dawn Derenburger, RT(R)(M) looks at how to achieve optimal imaging in a suboptimal world in the latest issue of their quarterly newsletter, SBI News.


National Radiologic Technology Week

Today, and every day, we recognize and honor all the fabulous technologists out there for National Radiologic Technology Week! Without you, none of us could continue the important work that we do in the field of breast imaging. We thank you for your devotion to your patients and your daily work to save lives. Cheers to YOU!

My First Breast Cancer Walk As A Survivor

This past weekend I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to give some lectures at their Annual Breast Cancer Conference. This has always been a special conference and affiliation for me for several reasons. First off, I get to visit my favorite Aunt Marge, Uncle Bob, my cousin Bill and his lovely wife Amy.  Some of my favorite childhood memories were made on trips to see these special and beloved relatives and that has not changed over several decades. Cedar Rapids is also special in that my parents met at Coe College located there. Finally, I have had the great privilege of working with Dr. Arnold Honick, who is a dedicated and compassionate Radiologist who has always supported his staff of really great techs. We did a Train-the-Trainer program for their group (RCI) whose practice reads for facilities throughout the state and he told me, this weekend, that they continue to see an improvement in image quality due to their application of standardized positioning techniques they have implemented and sustained since the training.
On the day of conference, they told me that their 28th annual community Breast Cancer Walk ‘Especially For You,’ co-founded by Mercy Hospital and General Mills was being held that weekend. This past February, I spent six days in Mercy Hospital receiving intensive care following a very scary and dangerous neutropenic fever episode. I believe their excellent care and compassion helped to save my life, so I immediately wanted to help support this cause. This would be my first Breast Cancer Walk as a Survivor.
I went with several other of the techs that I know there, who have become friends over the years: Janette, Wendy and Andrea, plus a gaggle of kids and other relatives and friends. As RCI was a major donor and supporter of the Walk, Janette was able to get VIP passes. It was a rainy day so we got up close parking and a wonderful breakfast, which was served on the top floor of the hospital.  We all had on our special event T-shirts and survivors got a ‘buff’ which could be worn as a head band or scarf. On my ‘Race Tag’ which contained our ID numbers (to track the fastest runners, which was of no use to me… haha).  But I wrote on it: “I am walking for: Joan, Sally, Karen, Anita, Kim, Kathy, Sue, Rhonda, Marcia…”  I ran out of room; a sobering thought.

I then joined the other (hundreds) of survivors for a special picture which was taken surrounding a pink firetruck. [photo at top]  I grabbed my friend, Aunt Marie, who I met earlier and we tried to climb up to the top of truck; encouraged and assisted by the others who had already made it up. Everyone was laughing, smiling and cheering as our pictures were taken by a photographer posted high above on a crane. It was truly a celebration and I felt an wave of emotion as I stood and cheered with my new ‘sisterhood’. Although it was lightly raining, it did not ‘dampen’ anyone’s enthusiasm!  We all walked, talked and hugged the entire time. It was truly a special occasion filled with many emotions: pride, strength, empathy, encouragement, and joy. We were celebrating the lives of those who many have lost their battle with breast cancer, but are still beloved and remembered; for those of us who have beaten breast cancer and those who will be diagnosed and cured.

There are many such walks going on across the country this month and I encourage you participate.  If you can donate money that goes to assisting breast cancer research, detection and treatment, do so. But nothing is so powerful and moving as walking together with the thousands of survivors, patients, friends, family and strangers who join hands and walk to support this most important cause.  It is experiences like this that feed your heart and soul. It is your/our participation that truly gives hope to those of us who have fought breast cancer and to those who will.

Hope is truly the most precious of gifts.

Louise Miller

A Special thank you to Especially for You® Race Against Breast Cancer for providing the photographs.