Mammography specialist uses hugs, high-tech tools to fight cancer Technologist calls early detection key

September 21, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Gaby Donovan welcomes patients into her office with a warm hug and a reassuring smile. She hopes her manner with women scheduled for a mammogram puts them at ease.

"I hug them all," said Ms. Donovan, a mammography specialist for Medical Ultrasound Imaging in Westminster. "Everybody needs a hug and the positive energy which transpires."

She chose antiques and soft mauve walls for the examining room at Medical Ultrasound Imaging "to make women feel at home and comfortable."

"They are tired of sterile environments," she said.

A registered technologist who has 15 years of experience in mammography, Ms. Donovan, 54, sees about 45 patients a week in offices in Westminster, Catonsville and Glen Burnie.

"The key to curing breast cancer is early detection," she said. "A mammogram is still the best method for detecting abnormalities."

She takes her message on prevention to many women's groups.

"I am alarmed at the increase in breast cancer, and the mortality rates give me the chills," she said. "With early detection, there is a 97 percent cure rate."

A first mammogram -- called a base-line mammogram -- is essential for women younger than 40; women 40 to 49 should have a biannual examination and "after 50, absolutely every year," she said.

"I may sound like a broken record, but I constantly remind women to call their doctors after a mammogram and make sure everything is all right," she said.

She also urges women "to listen to their bodies. They tell us when something is wrong. Lumps don't go away."

About 80 percent of breast lump biopsies reveal benign tumors, she said. Still, many women develop breast cancer and choose to undergo mastectomy, or breast removal, as a treatment option. Ms. Donovan wants to help them, too.

She recently became a consultant for Coloplast, a Denmark-based company with an outlet in Florida. The company is marketing Discrene as an alternative to the traditional breast prosthesis. The newly developed breast form attaches directly to the body with "skin-friendly" adhesive.

"This product can make women feel more normal and give them more freedom to be as active as they want to be," she said. "They can shower, swim or play tennis while wearing it."

Coloplast developed the first self-supporting breast form in Denmark in 1989. It was approved for the U.S. market three years ago. Discrene is worn on the chest, not inside the pocket of a special mastectomy bra.

"They can wear this product as soon as their surgical scar heals," she said.

Made of a high-quality silicone gel, encased in a skin-like material to give a natural weight, consistency and appearance, it is fitted to match a woman's shape, color and size.

After surgery, many women don't want to return to the hospital for breast reconstruction, Ms. Donovan said.

Discrene provides an alternative to reconstructive surgery, she said.

"I don't want women to be afraid after surgery," she said. "I want to offer them support any way I can."

Ms. Donovan said the product, which comes with a two-year manufacturer's warranty, costs about $400.

Each patient receives a personalized fitting at home. Medicare provides partial reimbursement and coverage varies with private insurers, she said.

"I want breast cancer survivors to feel good about themselves," said Ms. Donovan.

"I would be happy not to sell this product, but unfortunately that JTC is not the case," she said.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Coloplast representatives and Ms. Donovan will exhibit Discrene at Westminster Inn on Center Street. They will offer trial fittings to women who want to try the form.

Ms. Donovan also will be at Linganore Wine Cellars in Mount Airy from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 3 with members of the Maryland Association of Mammographers.

For more information, call 255-6354.

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