Cancer survivor credits HMC radiologist with saving her life
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Early detection is the name of the game in combating breast cancer in women, according to Dr. Michael Jokich, radiologist at Hartselle Medical Center.
Nobody knows that better than Michelle Gresham, an emergency room nurse at HMC with 18 years of experience in oncology.
Gresham was diagnosed with breast cancer four and one-half years ago after Dr. Jokich detected a tiny lump in one of her breasts while reading a routine mammogram. Surgery and chemotherapy followed and now she is a healthy cancer survivor.
"I was lucky that my cancer was discovered at a very early stage and had not spread," Gresham said. "I give the imaging department here credit for that. Dr. Jokich had a clear mammogram to work with and demonstrated a high level of experience and skill in observing that a change had occurred since my last mammogram. He followed up by having me come back in for a second mammogram.
"I was told later by medical professionals at UAB that the film I brought them was excellent and that my radiologist had discovered a cancer that could easily have been overlooked.
"I highly recommend the imaging department here," she added. "I think people need to understand that there's no substitute for a caring and competent X-ray technician and a highly qualified and experienced radiologist when it comes to having a mammogram done."
Dr. Jokich is a board-certified radiologist and is one of only two radiologists in North Alabama with a sub-specialty in breast imaging. He has been on staff at Hartselle Medical Center since1998. He received his medical training at the University of Chicago and is a former assistant professor of radiology at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago.
Dr. Jokich recommends that a woman have a mammogram between the ages of 35 to 40, sooner if they have a family history of breast cancer, and once a year after the age of 40.
"Early detection of cancerous tissue in the breast is very important," he emphasized, "and the smaller the mass the better. The cure rate for early stage cancer is as high as 90 percent."
He added that the best case scenario for early detection by a radiologist is to have a clear current mammogram and the one made a year before with which to make a comparison."
"Not all red-flagged mammograms are bad," he pointed out; "It's very common to find benign cysts. If needed, we can use sonography or untrasound for a closer look."
Mammograms at HMC are done by Shirley Fowler, an X-ray technician with four years of experience in breast screening. Previously, she did x-rays at an orthopedic surgeon's clinic for 21 and one-half years.
"Our equipment is as good as you'll find anywhere in this area and we're a certified mammography facility," she pointed out. "To maintain our certification we are carefully monitored and inspected annually by the American College of Radiology and the Alabama Department of Health and Human Services."
"We get very positive feedback from our patients," she said. "One of the reasons they like to have their mammogram done here is they don't have to wait. I schedule them at 45-minute intervals and the procedure takes 10 to 15 minutes at the most."
"After the mammogram has been read and interpreted by Dr. Jokich," she added, "the patient is promptly notified of the result by registered mail. We also keep careful records and notify our patients when it is time for them to have their next screening."
"The personnel and equipment we have in our imaging department are top-notch in every respect," HMC's Chief Executive Officer David Jones said. "They underscore our commitment to provide the very best health care possible to the people of our community."