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Advanced Imaging with Breast Radiologist Winnie Leung, MD

Nov 18, 2020, 23:09 PM by Sansum Clinic
Winnie Leung, MD, Sansum Clinic’s new fellowship-trained breast radiologist, would like cancer screenings for women to feel pleasant and stress-free. “Breast imaging should be like going for a dental checkup. Nothing scary. I liken it to looking for a small cavity before it requires a big filling,” she explains. Sophisticated imaging technology can locate cancer in its earliest stages, when it is very treatable. More advanced machines means fewer false-positives and less chance of having to call women back for more tests or possibly unnecessary biopsies. If cancer is detected, the imaging often guides treatment decisions and can monitor a patient’s response to different therapies.

Dr. Leung is part of the Clinic’s Advanced Imaging Department along with three other radiologists who have the experience and training to use world-class equipment like 3D mammography or tomosynthesis, as well as automated whole breast ultrasound and MRI.

“In modern day medicine, nary a diagnoses goes through without having an imaging study,” remarks Dr. Leung. The conversations with patients while gathering the studies are what she enjoys the most. During the screening, she may have a woman show her an area of concern, or she may perform a physical exam of the breast or ask about the size of a lump or mass. “Is it the size of an M&M? An olive? A golf ball?” she often asks. She might pull up the digital pictures for the patient on an exam room computer screen, commenting about what she’s learned.

Should a breast cancer diagnosis be confirmed, Dr. Leung has full confidence in referring her patients to Ridley-Tree Cancer Center. The multidisciplinary team there was one of the reasons she made the move, after practicing in Santa Barbara for nearly a decade. The ease with which she can communicate with a patient’s entire medical team through the shared electronic health record streamlines the process, she adds. “Breast radiology is a highly-collaborative discipline and this approach works best for the care of the woman whether they are healthy and careful about prevention, or if they have breast cancer. You find this approach at big academic centers for a reason.” Dr. Leung currently chairs the Santa Barbara Breast Care Alliance, an accredited group of breast cancer experts who use a team approach to care for those with breast health concerns. “With breast cancer, we know what to do and the resources are right here in this town,” she confirms.

A STEM internship with a practicing radiologist during her time as an undergrad at Dartmouth College sparked Dr. Leung’s interest in the field. She continued her medical education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine where she also completed a radiology residency and breast radiology fellowship. The “human side” of radiology solidified for Dr. Leung that this slice of the medical field was for her. “It’s mothers, it’s daughters, it’s family. It’s the best of radiology combined with women. That is why I love it,” she effuses.

An added benefit from Dr. Leung’s years of world-class training in Wisconsin was her marriage to her husband, Dr. William (Hod) Dunbar, a Sansum Clinic orthopedic surgeon, who provides support and perspective on caring for people within the community where they live, work and raise their children. She takes a holistic view of health in her own life, by practicing yoga and playing golf with her family. She adopts the same approach with her patients, understanding that she often is the first to guide women through a very personal test, triage them, review their history and look for red flags. “I want to make their care tailored and personalized. And if there are questions surrounding their imaging, we can find an answer.”