October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and one doctor at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital acutely aware of the importance of early detection in fighting the disease is Brenda Koblick, lead interpreting radiologist in L+M’s Breast Imaging Center.
Brenda came to L+M in 1982 and, for 30 years, she has been using her highly trained eyes to read X-rays and other diagnostic tests, looking for the earliest signs of cancer and other diseases.
“In this line of work, you are not shielded from the realities of cancer,” Dr. Koblick says. “Screening mammography is the only proven screening method that reduces mortality from breast cancer. We see mammograms every week with subtle abnormalities that are diagnosed early, and the patients are more effectively treated.”
Dr. Koblick grew up in Westchester County, NY, and attended medical school at New York Medical College. Her residency in diagnostic radiology was at The New York Hospital, followed by an ultrasound fellowship at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. In 1982, Dr. Koblick and her husband, Jeffrey Hertz, an ophthalmologist, moved to the Norwich area.
The technological changes Dr. Koblick has seen in 30 years are amazing. “It’s so different now,” she says. “When I came here, there was a CT scanner that was pretty new, but MRI didn’t exist at L+M, and we didn’t do mammography as we do it now. We now offer full field digital mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI and imaging guided breast biopsy.”
The changes in diagnostic imaging over three decades mean that Dr. Koblick today can offer patients a better chance of detecting early-stage cancer than she could when she first began at L+M.
“The advances we’ve seen in imaging technology over the past 30 years have just been fantastic – it’s probably the fastest growing segment of medicine,” she says.
With that said, Koblick emphasizes that sophisticated mammography equipment, ultrasound and MRI capabilities are only useful to those who are willing to be screened.
“The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology strongly recommend that annual screenings should start at 40, and those are the guidelines that should be followed,” Dr. Koblick says. “We have people that come in every year and we are picking up very small cancers.”
Every case is different, she emphasizes, “But it’s fact that people live longer with screening mammography – there are fewer deaths from breast cancer for people who get screened for breast cancer. The earlier you detect it, the better chance of successful treatment and survival.”
Dr. Koblick says she loves the work she does at L+M’s Breast Imaging Center because it brings her in close connection to the patients, “which sometimes escapes us in other areas of radiology.”
Also, she adds, “In my line of work, I like my interaction with referring physicians and going to interdisciplinary conferences. We are always students, and if you’re learning as you go, that’s always a good thing.”
Approximately 22,000 women annually are screened for breast cancer at L+M’s Breast Imaging Center, the Pequot Health Center and at L+M locations in Stonington, Old Saybrook and Crossroads in Waterford.
“The state-of-the-art breast imaging equipment and service provided in the department is second to none,” Dr. Koblick says. “The technologists are fantastic. Their education is current, their technical skills are excellent, and they are really kind to the patients.”
When she’s not talking about radiology, Koblick is also proud to mention her two grown children and her diligent efforts to improve both her golf game and her skills at the game of bridge.
And, when she looks back over the years, she says she’s proud to have been a part of L+M.
“It’s a great community hospital,” she says. “It’s a very changing and challenging environment now in healthcare, but L+M is preparing itself in many new ways. Our affiliation with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the new L+M Cancer Center being built in Waterford, for example, are major advancements. I think it’s going to be an exciting future for L+M.”
To learn more about Dr. Koblick, click here.