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Advanced Imaging with Dr. Winnie Leung

Nov 23, 2020, 10:18 AM by OnCenter
Early Detection Saves Lives. The American College of Radiology and the American College of Surgeons recommend annual mammograms for women, starting at age 40. Women with an increased risk of breast cancer should contact their doctor to discuss suggested frequency of screenings.
Dr. Winnie Leung

Sophisticated imaging technology is used to locate breast cancer in its beginning stages. It guides treatment decisions and can monitor a patient’s response to different therapies. Winnie Leung, MD, Sansum Clinic’s new fellowship-trained breast radiologist, has spent most of her career leveraging the power of imaging technology to glean real clarity on women’s breast health. “We can find more breast cancers and also pick up fewer false-positives, decreasing our chances of having to call women back for more imaging or possibly unnecessary biopsies,” she explains. As part of Sansum Clinic’s Advanced Imaging Department, Dr. Leung works alongside three other radiologists, all who have experience and training using world-class equipment like tomosynthesis (mammography), automated whole breast ultrasound and MRI. Making the screenings feel easy, pleasant and stress-free is important to Dr. Leung. “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.” 

Dr. Leung likes to dispel the myth that radiologists are hidden away in dark rooms examining digital pictures on computer screens. While evaluating imagery is part of the job, Dr. Leung relishes the interactions with patients, mammographers and sonographers, as they converse while gathering the studies. 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 inquires. She might pull up the digital pictures for the patient on an exam room computer screen, commenting about what she’s learned.

The conversation lays the groundwork for a partnership between the woman and her breast team. Should a breast cancer diagnosis be confirmed, Dr. Leung has full confidence in referring her patients to Ridley-Tree Cancer Center. 

After practicing in Santa Barbara for nearly a decade, Dr. Leung joined Sansum Clinic in the spring of 2020, excited to join the multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Program at Ridley-Tree, supported by a large group of experienced medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, breast surgeons, advanced practice providers, breast navigators, nurses, genetic counselors, researchers, social workers, oncology nutritionists and wellness instructors. “One of the reasons I moved was to be more collaborative with those who participate in cancer care in this town,” expresses Dr. Leung. She knew the program’s ease in collaborating with other independent clinicians to offer the most informed and comprehensive breast cancer care available. 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. “It’s a model used at large academic cancer centers. You don’t need to drive down the 101 to get world-class breast cancer care. It’s not a mystery. We know what to do and the resources are right here in this town,” she confirms. 

Dr. Leung’s foray into radiology began while an undergrad at Dartmouth College during a STEM internship with a practicing radiologist trained in both radiology and nuclear medicine. She continued to grow and learn in her specialty during a radiology residency and breast radiology fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine. The “human side” of radiology solidified for Dr. Leung that this slice of the medical field was for her. “I love being a consultant to my fellow physician peers. That was the excitement,” she describes. “It’s the best of radiology combined with being with people, being with women and that is why I love it.” 

Receiving world-class training in a focused specialty was not the only benefit from Dr. Leung’s years in Wisconsin. She also met her husband, William (Hod) Dunbar, MD, a Sansum Clinic orthopedic surgeon. The couple often leans on each other for empathy and understanding while they balance practicing medicine with raising children. “Having a fellow physician spouse makes it easier, because we are able to sort it out and put it into perspective together,” admits Dr. Leung. Whether she is practicing yoga, playing tennis or hitting some golf balls with her family, she takes a holistic approach to her personal life, as well as her patients. “Radiologists are often the first to see women, the first people to triage them, review their history, and look for the red flags. I want to make their care tailored and personalized. And if there are questions surrounding their imaging, we can find an answer.”