Valley Baptist-Harlingen Renovates Breast Center, Adds Automated Ultrasound Capabilities

Apr 18, 2024

When healthcare is at its best, patient experience and cutting-edge technology are key pieces of the process.

Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen addressed both the experience and the technology with a deliberate and thoughtful renovation of its Breast Center.

From new décor designed to help reduce anxiety over screenings and procedures to providing the latest technology aiding in the detection of breast cancer, the renovations are key to providing patients with the best healthcare and most comfortable experience available, said Valley Baptist-Harlingen Imaging Services Director Joey Govea.

“The changes we’ve made go a long way toward improving the patient experience. Unfortunately, mammograms and breast ultrasounds continue to be some of the more anxiety-inducing procedures for patients,” he said. “One in eight women experience breast cancer in their lifetime. That’s so many of our family members and loved ones, and it is a lot of patients. When many of these women undergo these procedures, it makes them naturally nervous, but we’ve worked hard to revamp our environment to help put the patients at ease.”

Govea said the quarter-of-a-million-dollar renovation includes thoughtful design and décor touches throughout the Breast Center space. Waiting areas and procedure rooms were enlarged and redecorated, walls were repainted to new colors specifically chosen to give the space a sense of home, and lighting was softened to strip away the feeling of a sterile hospital environment.

Throughout the undertaking, which was completed in late 2023, Govea said his team of technologists continued their important work of helping Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s community in the fight against breast cancer.

“Through it all, we never shut down and we were able to keep servicing our community during the upgrade,” he said.

In addition to the facelift, the Valley Baptist-Harlingen Breast Center is also the first in the Rio Grande Valley to add a new piece of cutting-edge technology to aid in the fight against breast cancer that could be especially key for women in communities throughout the region. Automated breast ultrasound, or ABUS, is a secondary cancer screening test that can help detect possible cancers in dense breast tissue, a trait found in as high as 65 percent of the Valley’s female population, Govea said.

“ABUS is an adjunct procedure and does not replace the traditional mammogram,” Govea said. “It helps us better serve our patients who have been identified as having dense breast tissue.”

Mammograms of dense breast tissue are more difficult for radiologists to read, with Govea describing the images as looking at a snowstorm. For radiologists trying to detect cancer, the process of examining a mammogram of dense breast tissue can be akin to “looking for a snowball in a snowstorm,” he said.

“Obviously, that presents a greater challenge for our radiologists,” Govea said. “But with ABUS, we now have another tool in our arsenal to give our radiologists all the accurate information we can to help them make the correct diagnosis for our patients.”

Govea said the increased clarity provided by ABUS adds marginal time to the traditional screening process and carries with it minimal discomfort.

“For patients who would benefit from ABUS, we’re doing our best to schedule their mammograms and ABUS at the same time,” he said. “The ABUS procedure follows the mammogram, and during the procedure a patient will lie on their back and a technologist will move a handheld device over the breasts to take images at different angles that will help our radiologists detect any potential masses. All combined, a mammogram should take about 10-to-15 minutes, and the ABUS procedure will take about the same amount of time.”

Govea said that when considering the addition of ABUS to the Breast Center’s available tools, putting patients first and keeping them close to home for potentially life-saving screenings was a top priority.

“Technology moves very quickly, especially in healthcare. This is our community and our families,” he said. “Just like everything else we do at Valley Baptist, we wanted to make sure that whenever possible, our patients don’t have to travel far from home for the latest technology or treatments.”

As the healthcare landscape of South Texas continues to grow, Govea said Valley Baptist will continue to strive to remain on the cutting-edge of the transformation.

“Just like everything else Valley Baptist Health System has done first, we will continue to refine and streamline our processes with ABUS, and then we hope everyone else will follow suit,” he said. “This will be a game-changer for women in our community, and I hope that it will become the standard of care throughout the Valley. At Valley Baptist, we don’t shy away from new things when they are the best thing to do for our community.”

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