North Hawaii Community Hospital Announces New Breast Health Program

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KAMUELA, HI –– North Hawaii Community Hospital (NHCH) announces a new Breast Health Program to offer patients access to the latest cutting-edge technology, a more comfortable experience, faster image analysis and on-going support, in coordination with Hawaii’s new mammography self-referral law, which takes effect on July 1st, 2012.

NHCH’s Imaging Department recently upgraded from analog technology to a state-of-the-art digital mammography machine called MAMMOMAT Inspiration by Siemens. “This new machine is absolutely the best mammography equipment available, and we are all really excited to offer this to our patients,” says Dr. George Ainge, Medical Director of Imaging at NHCH. The hospital’s new digital mammography machine provides technologists the ability to review the images in real time to determine image quality, providing more information for diagnosis. “Our new digital mammography machine also features intelligent breast compression technology, which offers patients a more comfortable exam experience with a shorter exam time and one-third less exposure to x-rays,” says Dr. Ainge.


According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in women. Early detection is key in treating breast cancer, and annual mammography can help detect breast tumors at their earliest, most treatable stages.

A new Hawai‘i state law will take effect July 1st, 2012, allowing women over the age of 40, for the first time ever, the right and ability to choose when, where and with whom they’d like to schedule their annual breast-screening exam, without a referral from their primary care physician. “The timing of Hawaii’s new self-referral state law and our new Breast Health Program could not be more perfect,” said Ken Wood, President and CEO of NHCH.

“We are proud to give women in our community the opportunity to engage in their own healthcare and not be hindered by an old referral process.” Prior to July 1, women in Hawaii had to get a referral from a physician or be given permission from their healthcare provider to schedule and receive an annual exam.

NHCH’s new Breast Health Program offers patients more than just upgraded state-of-the-art technology. “We revamped our breast health program by incorporating multiple upgrades and process improvements by creating a more patient centered model of care which supports patients throughout the entire mammography process from start to finish,” says Lorrie Mortensen, NHCH Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer. Mammography results are now produced much more quickly, helping to decrease patient anxiety. “Mammography results that used to take days or weeks are now available in a fraction of that time,” says Mortensen.

In addition, should an abnormality be discovered during a patient’s screening mammography, NHCH radiologists are now able to expedite any additional testing and, if necessary, perform a minimally-invasive biopsy to establish a diagnosis. Previously, a patient needing additional testing was referred to Hilo or off island. “Our new Breast Health Program is designed to minimize anxiety by providing rapid and accurate diagnosis close to home,” says Dr. Ainge. When additional follow-up is required, NHCH’s new Breast Health Program will support patients by arranging referrals to Hawai‘i Island healthcare providers. “In addition, we now have the technology, processes and relationships in place which allow us to consult rapidly with women’s health specialists in Oahu, making quick and effective diagnosis and treatment a reality, despite our rural location,” says Mortensen.

New technologies at NHCH and Hawaii’s new state law are major, positive developments in the fight against breast cancer. To take advantage of Hawaii’s new self-referral process and NHCH’s new digital mammography technology, please call NHCH’s Imaging Department at 881-4882 to schedule your annual mammogram.


NHCH Background: North Hawaii Community Hospital (NHCH) is a rural 33-bed acute care hospital located in Kamuela, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Non-profit, community owned and locally governed, the hospital opened in May 1996 and cares for Big Island residents and visitors. NHCH offers an extensive set of hospital services that are centered on patient needs, creating a healing experience for the whole person – mind, body and spirit.