The Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo new flagship campus that opened in El Centro in January recently added a 3D mammography service and is rapidly approaching its goal of becoming a one-stop health care center.
Located at 852 E. Danenberg Drive, just north of the Imperial Valley Mall, the 40,000-square-foot clinic is accepting patients for pediatrics, adult medicine, women’s health, behavioral health, radiology and tele-health with audio-visual exams. A pharmacy, optometrist and dental clinic are planned.
Since starting the 3D service in June, Clinicas had, as of Aug. 28, performed more than 500 mammograms.
“This was a great move, since we’ve outgrown Wake Avenue (former location) a while ago,” Greg Gilbert, radiology director, said of the new clinic and its varied services. “This makes us more efficient and gives us more space to add specialties and services.”
Jessica Castro, a mammography technician, noted that for a majority of cancers detected in women there is neither a family history nor personal experience with any perceptible cancer. That makes screening vital.
“The 3D allows us to detect any asymptomatic lesions, or palpable lumps,” she said. “And it can find masses one millimeter in size, about the same as a grain of rice.”
The 3D is more accurate than conventional 2D, detecting up to 65 percent more invasive breast cancers by rendering images in slices to allow a cross-sectional view. It improves the patient experience with a curved surface that mirrors the shape of the breast for a more even compression.
“Pretty much of what I see are women over 40 and we recommend an annual exam,” said Castro. “But first you must see a provider from our Women’s Department. The doctor will do a clinical breast exam with touch patterns: circular, wedge and linear. Then the doctor can put in an order for a mammogram.”
This is Castro’s first year doing mammography. She previously worked six years as an x-ray technician at the Clinicas Brawley campus. She went back to school taking online courses and is doing clinical training at Clinicas. After completing 25 exams and getting her mammography license from the state she was able to get her certification.
“We’re the first step in detection and early detection saves lives,” said Castro. “Self examination is important because you’re more readily familiar with your own breast. If there’s any changes you’ll know right away and not delay to see a doctor.”
Castro admitted 3D can be a bit uncomfortable but fully advocates for the procedure since minor discomfort is better than not knowing the status of one’s health. Working at the new facility, Castro said she feels upbeat and strives to have patients leave the clinic knowing more than when they arrived.
“It feels good when patients tell me the mammogram wasn’t as painful as before or they say that ‘It was over before I knew it,’” Castro added. “I worked x-ray at the Brawley campus but I like it here because there’s lots of opportunity for growth.”
Her husband, Jonathan Castro, works in the next suite as an x-ray technician.
While x-rays are commonly used to check for bone fractures, they can detect kidney or gall stones, or foreign bodies, such as metal fragments, that may have penetrated the body. They are also used to detect emphysema, tuberculosis, lung cancer, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Clinicas’ x-ray department also has a scanner to measure bone-mineral density.
“As we get older, our bone density grows more fragile so we’re at higher risk for fractures,” said Jonathan. “After 50 years old we recommend to have bone density checked every two years.”
Another vital service Clinicas maintains is ultrasound. This uses high-frequency sound waves to capture live images from the inside of the body to determine if a massive, a cyst or stone is present in the soft tissues.
It can also detect blood clots or plaque in the arteries, which is most common among diabetic patients, who can lose sensation in feet or toes because of insufficient blood flow, explained Felisa Huddleston, an ultrasound technician.
“Ultrasound has been in use for over 40 years and it can pick up more soft tissue and clarifies (the image) better than x-rays,” said Huddleston. “It’s used as a second diagnosis for x-rays, mammograms and CAT scans, and provides an image with more detail.”
The facility’s expansion is a source of enthusiasm for its staff.
“We’re adding more specialists, Dr. Stephen Gocke in neonatal care (high-risk pregnancy). We’ll be getting a podiatrist soon and a pharmacy in the future,” said Jonathan Castro.
Huddleston said patients appreciate the depth of services, explaining, “They say it’s a lot faster here. When there’s multiple patients, the wait times here are far briefer.”