[00:00:00] Adam Walker: This episode of Real Pink is brought to you by Fujifilm, Never Stop Innovating for a healthier world.
[00:00:11] From Susan G. Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
[00:00:25] Breast cancer screening and early detection play an important role in your health. Screening tests can help detect breast cancer at an early stage when the chances of survival are the highest. Joining us on the show today to talk about the importance of screening, imaging tests for women for dense breasts and the role of innovation and technology in screening is Henry Izawa, President and CEO of Fujifilm Healthcare Americas Corporation. Henry, welcome to the show!
[00:00:53] Henry Izawa: Well, thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
[00:00:57] Adam Walker: Well, this is, I mean, such an important conversation. So I really appreciate you joining us for it. So to kick things off, let’s talk about the importance of screening tests for breast cancer. Just simply speaking, why is it so important for women to stay on top of their screening tests?
[00:01:12] Henry Izawa: That’s a great question. So let’s take a look at some of the statistics here. So, data from American Cancer Society gives us indication that one in eight women will have…will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It is the most diagnosed cancer among women in the United States. The mortality rate is 2.5%. So one in 39 women will die from cancer. Now, unfortunately, there’s no preventative measure that we can take to reduce the number of women who will be diagnosed. But what we can do is through screening participation, we can reduce the mortality rate. And this is why industry players like Fujifilm and our peers as well as the healthcare providers promote annual screening. Not every other year, but every year for women above 40 years old.
[00:02:18] Adam Walker: Right. And we know even though we recommend screening every year for women above 40 years old. That that’s not always the case. So can you talk a little bit about what some of the common reasons are that women might skip screening or not stay on the recommended schedule?
[00:02:35] Henry Izawa: Absolutely. So in the nineties, if we look at the percentage of women who received screening every year was in the 80s. If we look at statistics today, It’s about 65%. So the percentage has come down significantly. And there’s a lot of reasons why. Lifestyle change, for example, but also the complexity of insurance comes into play as well. So there’s a large portion of women who do not… who are not insured, that do not get screened at all for that matter.
[00:03:12] COVID also has not helped. Today the volume has come back. But still around 85% pre-COVID. In addition to this, we have sort of the underlying hesitation of received screening due to pain, for example, or uncomfortableness that the women feel during the procedure. So I think, you know, there’s not one reason why, for example, we can’t get back to 85%, but a multitude of reasons and the, this is very concerning for us because we’re in the business of working with our clinician partners to reduce the mortality rate. So, you know, we work with our partners to make sure that we promote annual screening as well.
[00:04:02] Adam Walker: Yeah, absolutely. And so being that you are on the technology side, it seems pertinent to ask you the question. So how can technology support patients in some overcoming some of these barrier?
[00:04:13] Henry Izawa: There’s three aspects that we look at as an industry player. Number one is image quality. So image quality is the most important tool for our clinician partners to detect any suspicious findings. And that’s what screening is all about. So we have been in the industry since 1934. Obviously technology has evolved. The original technology platform was film. Then evolved into computer radiology and then now into VR. So as technology has advanced, we have a much more higher detection rate. And that’s our participation as an industry player to contribute to detecting and contributing to early detection.
[00:05:04] The second point is the comfort aspect. So we invested a lot of time and effort in coming up with a lot of new technologies to provide the best comfort for the patients who are receiving screening. So, for example, we not only have fantastic wraps on our equipment and lighting that will smooth the ambience. We also have a paddle, which we call comfort paddle. Now what this is, it reduces the pain significantly for the women who are being compressed. It’s not a rigid panel, it’s a patented panel that gives a lot of flexibility to the panel, but also improves the positioning of the breast. So it’s a two-in-all from a technology standpoint.
[00:05:58] We received a lot of fantastic feedback from the patients through our clinician partners that because of the improvement in the comfort that they get commitments of coming back annually. So we’re very happy with the outcomes that the technology has created more comfort to the patients that will promote annual screening.
[00:06:23] Adam Walker: I mean, I love hearing that. That’s great.
[00:06:25] Henry Izawa: So are we’re very enthusiastic about it. The third point is to make sure that we come out with technology that can contribute to driving personalized care. So as the demographics, especially in the United States is very diverse. There’s many types of breasts. Breasts that are fatty, breasts that are dense, and it’s very different based on race. We have a very wide installation base around the world, which gives us a lot of insight in terms of breast types, and we use that feedback and feed it back into our R&D development cycle to make sure that we come out with technologies that address different types of breasts. So those are the three elements that we take to heart in terms of contributing as an industry player.
[00:07:24] Adam Walker: That’s, I mean, that’s really exciting to hear about those developments. I mean, I’ve certainly talked to women that had concerns in sort of all of those areas, especially the comfort one. And so I love working on solving that issue to make it more… I guess give women sort of better access, in a sense, for that. So next what are, I mean, what else are you working on? Like what technological innovations do you expect to see in breast cancer screening in the next 10 years? And what are you most excited about?
[00:07:54] Henry Izawa: Fantastic question. If we look at the progression that Fujifilm has made in the women’s health space, we have invested significantly to become a major player in this space through heavy investment and technology innovation. We’ve come out with three platforms of mammography systems in the past 10 years. We’re working on several as we speak. We’ve advanced our image processing utilizing AI. We’ve come out with additional software in order to come out with technologies such as 3D, for example, synthesized 2D, in order to provide our clinician partners additional information that they’re gonna be able to utilize and we are committed to advance even further.
[00:08:44] In the next 10 years, I think personalized care is going to be a big focus or for our clinician partners. So like I said, we have a lot of technologies that we’re working on to provide solutions to provide the lowest possible technology to be able to satisfy personalized care based on the race and breast type. So, as an example, we utilize artificial intelligence, obviously it’s a big buzz buzzword in the medical space today. Our AI starts from image processing, for example, and it goes into various aspects of the whole workflow chain that we provide. We’re also working on newer technologies such as contrast and enhanced digital mammography.
[00:09:34] So we’re working on a newer technology called CEM, and this provides much more information to the clinicians for dense breasts for example. Today there’s are a lot of supplemental technology platforms in addition to mammograms that will provide this information such as abbreviated MRI for example, ultrasound which we also provide. But this new technology provides similar outcomes in comparison to MRI with less false positives at a lower cost. Which is for the future, has a lot of potential to be positioned as the platform for dense breast screening.
[00:10:20] Adam Walker: Yeah, I mean, and that’s so important and leads into my next question pretty well. So let’s talk about dense breasts. As it relates to screening, we know that almost half of the women at recommended screening age have dense breasts, which increases the risk of breast cancer. But we also know that most of these women will not get breast cancer. So let’s start broad. Why are mammograms harder to read for women with dense breasts?
[00:10:47] Henry Izawa: We, as industry players, we’re very keen to address this issue. Especially for aging breasts. So we’ve been facing dense breast issues since film screen, and the reason why it’s difficult is the overlap of tissue. And the more dense it is, the more difficult it is to separate the tissue. And what we’ve done is to come out with additional image processing that will address the dense breasts from a solution standpoint. There’s additional technology such as 3D technology, 3D mammograms to provide additional information to separate that overlap. And then again, we have the CEM, MRI, and ultrasound as supplemental technology to the mammogram to provide that comprehensive output from an information standpoint so that the radiologist can diagnose correctly.
[00:11:45] Adam Walker: Okay. That, so I’ve talked to lots of people and we’ve talked about dense breasts quite a bit, and that was by far the best overview of why it’s more difficult to diagnose one with dense breasts. I really appreciate you taking the time for that. So what research is needed to know what additional imaging tests would be most beneficial for women with dense breasts?
[00:12:06] Henry Izawa: Mammogram is… well, screening in general is always a trade off between cost and efficiency. So today’s platform, obviously, utilizes mammogram and it is because the technology level and the imaging level is sufficient, but at the same time, it provides… The society to embrace the cost so that the screening can be instituted at a very, at a very high volume level. Today, I think we are at a good level of processing technology to be able to understand the dense breasts with the 3D mammogram. So perhaps in the future, we can imagine that some of the research can be done with fusion between mammograms, 2D, 3D, and ultrasound, for example. So, these are some of the areas that are still being developed, and I think in the future this space is going to be to help diagnose more accurately for dense breasts.
[00:13:16] Adam Walker: So then how do we know which women would benefit most from these additional types of screenings?
[00:13:22] Henry Izawa: At the end of the day, it’s all about how can we reduce the mortality rate? Now, the screening technologies will help the radiologists find more suspicious areas, but the most important thing beyond technology is for women to take annual screenings. Today we see a lot of aggressive breast cancers that cannot be that we, well… it’s not caught one year, but it’s caught the next year. But if that one year is skipped, the second year it is no longer early detected. You know, the technology evolution will continue and all of other companies that belong to our space are heavily invested in continuing our evolution. But we need the women to take annual screenings. That is the biggest factor in the terms of reducing fatality.
[00:14:15] Adam Walker: That’s right. I mean, if there’s one thing that anyone learns from any episode of this podcast, it’s get your annual screenings, please. Please get your annual screenings.
[00:14:23] Henry Izawa: Absolutely.
[00:14:23] Adam Walker: Yeah.
[00:14:23] Henry Izawa: Absolutely.
[00:14:24] Adam Walker: Okay, so, so last question. How can the industry help promote the importance of early detection and breast screenings.
[00:14:33] Henry Izawa: Podcasts like this in order to enhance awareness. That is something that is very important. So I think it’s the duty of healthcare professionals as well as industry players to make sure that we create that recognition of annual screening. It’s done through, obviously, a lot of promotions. We have the peak month that we heavily advertised and participate in. But it’s also, I think, very important for women to talk about their annual screening with other women as well, to make sure the awareness gets spread.
[00:15:12] Another point is hopefully insurance companies, for example, nonprofit organizations, address women who do not have insurance, to be able to create a platform for those women to be able to receive annual screening as well. Now, there’s a lot of segmentation expansion in this space that’s being, I think, considered generally. For example, in addition to your traditional acute care space as well as outpatient centers who provide the imaging, there’s a lot of mobile solutions today that go around rural areas and participate in creating an awareness, number one, but to provide additional care to… for the women who do not have access in close proximity. So there are a lot of efforts, but number one is for everybody to really participate in creating that recognition.
[00:16:08] Adam Walker: That’s right.
[00:16:08] Henry Izawa: And awareness.
[00:16:09] Adam Walker: That’s right. Participate, get your screenings and talk to people about getting your screenings. It’s so important. It’s so important. Well, Henry, this has been great. You’ve illuminated several things that I’ve often wondered about as I’ve hosted this show, and I really appreciate you doing that. And thank you for the work that you and Fujifilm are doing in the healthcare space to help women all over the world. It’s so impactful, so important. Thank you just for joining us on the show today.
[00:16:35] Henry Izawa: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:16:40] Adam Walker: As a comprehensive healthcare company involved in Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment, Fujifilm is committed to never stop innovating for a healthier world. For more information about Fujifilm, visit fujifilm.com/us
[00:17:01] Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit Komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com.