Words of wisdom from lead radiologist Dr Monica Saini
Radiologists play a crucial role in the diagnosis of breast cancer – their job is to read your mammogram and decide whether or not to send a breast sample for a biopsy.
Sometimes it can be a bit confusing to distinguish between a radiographer and a radiologist! A radiologist is trained doctor who reads your mammogram, whereas a radiographer is the person who actually performs your mammogram on the day.
Dr Monica Saini is a breast radiologist by trade. She completed her training in the U.S at the University of Wisconsin and has over ten years’ patient care experience. In 2017 Monica and her family relocated to New Zealand and she now works as a senior radiologist at Hutt Valley DHB.
“I was going to be a GP, but during the course of medical school, I realised it wasn’t quite the right fit for me. I’m very visual and I love art, so when I saw a radiologist reading a chest X-ray, it was akin to art interpretation. That’s when I knew radiology was for me.”
Monica decided on breast imaging as the area of radiology where she wanted to specialise because it allowed her to get out of the darkroom, talk to patients, and perform biopsy procedures.
Monica is interested in breast density, a new and exciting area of radiology research. She explains that our breasts are made of two types of tissue – fatty tissue and fibroglandular tissue. If a woman has more fibroglandular or dense tissue it can be harder to find cancers as the tissue appears white on a mammogram, just like cancer does - it can have a masking effect. Monica describes this “like looking for a snowball in a snowstorm!”
Radiologists are looking for new ways to identify breast cancer in people with dense breasts. “There is still a long way to go and we don’t know how many patients in NZ have dense breasts. However, it’s an exciting area of research.” Monica reminds us that for now, mammography remains the gold standard for the detection of breast cancer.
Monica says that moving to New Zealand from the States (where there isn’t a public breast screening program), has been a gift - Monica’s best advice is “to take advantage of this gift - I come from a place where people don’t have anything like it.”
To listen to Monica chat on the panel of our recent webinar: Mammograms and me, click here.