ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – It’s an early Mother’s Day for a Long Island woman who thanks new technology now that she is cancer-free.

Doctors knew she had breast cancer, but couldn’t locate it at first.

They ultimately did, using a relatively new form of breast imaging.

For 73-year-old Pat Carlson of Patchogue, what started as a frightening mystery is now a celebration of life surrounded by grandchildren with whom she hopes to grow old, reported CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Despite annual mammograms, breast cancer sat undetected for more than a decade and spread. Ultimately a doctor noticed lumps in her neck, but she could not have an MRI to pinpoint the primary cancer.

“I have a pacemaker that is not compatible with MRI machines,” Carlson said.

But at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, relatively new technology called molecular breast imaging, or MBI, is locating hard-to-find breast cancers that can go undetected in patients with metal in their bodies who can’t undergo MRI.

MBI works in dense breasts too.

Instead of magnetic waves, MBI uses gamma waves, and can locate 400 times more breast cancer than a mammogram.

Pat Carlson and her family at Mercy Medical Center. (credit: CBSN New York)

“Had we not had this technology to do MBI, the next step would have been mastectomy, because there was a cancer somewhere in her breasts. And we couldn’t leave cancer in there because we couldn’t find it,” said Dr. Dana Deitch of St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center.

“It was a very special gift Carolyn, a gift that not many people get,” Pat said.

Because it is relatively new technology, there are only 25 machines in the nation.

“I’m happy. My family’s overjoyed. It’s a wonderful thing. And hopefully other men and women that can not have MRIs and things can have this technology to find cancers in their bodies. That’s the best gift,” Pat said.

“My children and sisters children have their grandmother and there is nothing better than that,” said Pat’s daughter Candace Sweeney.

“That she can spend the rest of her life healthy and happy,” daughter Courtney Ross said.

MBI technology costs the patient around $450 and is not always covered.

The Carlson family says to them, it’s priceless.

According to the Mayo Clinic, molecular breast imaging is considered a supplemental test. When combined with a mammogram, MBI detects more breast cancers, but doesn’t replace an annual mammogram.