From mammography technologists to patient navigators, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs encompasses a variety of staff members to help women with their breast health.

From mammography technologists to patient navigators, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs encompasses a variety of staff members to help women with their breast health.

Lisa Simpson, a mammography technologist for 28 years, said technology has greatly changed her line of work. When she started, mammograms still used balloons for compression.

“The whole imaging and the quality is so much better now than it used to be,” Simpson said. “With digital, we can see things a lot more clearly. You can detect small calcifications and small tumors earlier, especially with women who have a lot of fibrocystic tissue.”

The Internet, Simpson said, also has dramatically changed the realm of knowledge that women now have when they receive annual mammograms.

“People are much more informed now than they used to be,” she said. “In a way, it makes my job a little bit easier, when they come and know what’s going to be done. They have questions, are more prepared and it makes it a better experience for the patient.”

Simpson encourages women to get their first mammogram between the age of 35 and 40, as well as annually every year after their 40th birthday. Monthly self-exams are equally important, she said, as well as a physician check during annual well women exams.

Simpson described her work as meaningful and as a career she’s enjoyed.

“I like the ladies. I like what I do, and I feel like I am making a difference in peoples’ lives,” she said. “I enjoy my customers who come back year after year. You become family after a while.”

Following a mammogram, sometimes female patients need additional help through “the medical maze,” as Doneda Swenson described her role as a breast patient navigator at St. Mary’s.

Swenson stays with the women as they receive the mammogram and if they need an MRI or biopsy – she actually holds a woman’s hand as she undergoes a biopsy. If a women receives a cancer diagnosis, Swenson also helps them schedule appointments with surgeons, oncologists and plastic surgeons.

Although Swenson’s position differs from Simpson’s and she’s just two-and-a-half years into the role, Swenson said she also feels like she is making a difference.

“Just like Lisa, I really feel like I’m really helping ladies,” she said. “It’s a stressful time in their lives if they do have a positive diagnosis, and I feel like I’m the in-between person between them and their doctor if they have any questions.”