Brandi T. Nicholson, MD, FSBI
Radiologist, Medical Director of Breast Imaging
The Breast Imaging Center at Augusta Health offers imaging to our patients to help with breast cancer detection, imaging procedures and surgical planning. Our team of fellowship-trained radiologists and breast technologists specialize in breast imaging studies, including mammography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We provide the best care for our patients from screening to breast surgery planning.
I joined Augusta Health approximately 2 years ago to lead the Breast Imaging Center. I completed my radiology residency and breast imaging fellowship at the University of Virginia in 2006. I then worked at UVa for over a decade training physicians in breast imaging. After two years at the University of Iowa as the Director of the Breast Imaging Fellowship, I returned to Virginia to join the Augusta Health team. Bringing my experience to Augusta Health and working alongside our amazing staff and my fellow radiologists has been a privilege. Over the past two years, we have improved the level of care we provide to women in our region.
Our screening sites have only been updated to 3-D (or “tomo” or tomosynthesis) mammography units. Our standard of care is to perform 3-D imaging for both screening and diagnostic breast imaging. 3-D mammography allows for improved cancer detection and reduces screening callbacks for benign findings compared to 2-D mammograms. Women can have their screening mammograms at our Breast Imaging Center at the main hospital or at our Outpatient Centers in Stuarts Draft and Staunton. For women who have dense breast tissue (identified on a screening mammogram and shared in our patient outcome reports and letters), we also offer screening breast ultrasounds at the main hospital. Screening ultrasound may increase cancer detection in women with extremely dense breast tissue. For women who are at high risk of breast cancer, we also offer breast MRI screening. MRI requires an IV and contrast dye and is a test added to annual screening mammograms in women who are more likely to develop breast cancer based on family history and/or genetics. Women who have been told they have dense breast tissue or think they may be at high risk for breast cancer should talk to their doctors about the possible benefits of additional screening.
Our imaging teams work alongside Augusta Health’s wonderful thoracic surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, geneticists and pathologists to best serve our patients. Specifically for our breast surgeons, we collaborate to provide high-level imaging and problem solving to assist them in performing patient-centered surgery. Our 3-D mammography machines and new ultrasound machines help us detect disease that may affect our patients’ surgical planning. We also use contrast-enhanced breast MRI in some women with cancer to prepare for upcoming treatments. For each patient, we use our imaging tools to determine which procedures are necessary to gather information that may impact their care.
Dr. Tierney, a fellowship-trained breast surgeon, has advanced our delivery of oncoplastic surgery for the treatment of breast cancer at Augusta Health. To allow her to offer this advanced surgical treatment, we need to be sure that the appropriate tissue is removed. After completing the necessary imaging studies and biopsies, we can use several different techniques, including wire-free localization devices, to guide our surgeons to the areas of interest in the breast. This improves their accuracy and correct removal of abnormal tissue.
Our team is excited to serve your breast imaging needs. We hope to “see you” soon (or at least get your mammogram reviewed) for your routine screening. We recommend that women age 40 and older and at normal risk of breast cancer have a screening mammogram every year. Some women benefit from starting screening early and should talk to their doctor about their specific needs. In the New Year we can’t wait to show off our new Breast Imaging Center adjacent to the main hospital where we will be physically located next to our breast surgery team and have new technology to share.