It's lights off with LifeCare's cancer sleuth


October 26, 2019

Dr. Daniel Courneya

At LifeCare Medical Center, Dr. Daniel Courneya sits in a partially dark room while doing his best work, much like a detective at a crime scene searching for incriminating evidence.

He examines recent mammograms and ultrasounds while trying to decipher the lesions and suspected tissues that could be cancerous.

Dr. Courneya, who has been at LifeCare since 2004, was asked what has changed in the last year.

"One of the main things is, we have expanded some of the biopsy services for the women based upon mammogram and ultrasound findings," he said.

"We do the biopsies here in Roseau. Before they were going to Grand Forks, Thief River, Fargo, Mayo Clinic, and the Twin Cities," he said, noting that he performs the biopsies.

"We added that to the services we perform locally so people don't have to travel," he said.

"It's an outpatient procedure we do in the ultrasound suite. The woman comes in, has the procedure, and leaves right afterwards. The actual biopsy time is probably 10 to 15 minutes."

He estimated that the total time from start to finish is approximately 45 minutes.

Ever diagnose any teenage girls with breast cancer?

"No, the youngest person I have seen with breast cancer was actually a friend of mine. She was 24-years-old.

It's very uncommon for teenage girls to get breast cancer."

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Dr. Courneya is the radiologist on staff at LifeCare Medical Center.

"As far as my role goes, I take a look at the screening studies to help determine whether or not they need to have a biopsy. If there is something we find on the mammogram, it's then the pathologist in Grand Forks who tells us really what is going on," he said.

"If we cannot be 100 percent sure on a mammography or ultrasound that something is cancer, that's why we need a biopsy sample. And then the pathologist in Grand Forks will tell us what we're looking at," he said.

"The pathologist would then inform the patient's physician or provider, and then that provider would contact the patient with the results and then help her with setting up the next step."

What is the incidence of breast cancer in Roseau County?

"I would say that the rate of breast cancer here is probably at the upper end of what we see statewide," said Dr. Courneya.

For every woman in this area, he stresses the importance of regular screenings, mammograms, and physical exams to help detect breast cancer early.

"If detected early, breast cancer is curable," he said. "I'm still continuing to encourage women to do self-breast exams. There is conflicting data about the effectiveness of it, but I think for specific individuals, it can be important and help pick up things earlier."


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