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Breast screening goes digital

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Women across Northwestern Ontario will benefit from a new digital mammography unit that was installed last week on the Ontario Breast Screening Program’s Mobile Coach, thanks to an investment of close to $1 million from Cancer Care Ontario and the Northern Cancer Research Foundation.

Not only are the Northwest’s OBSP recruitment and retention rates top in the province, but Thunder Bay is the first site in Ontario to receive funding for digital screening mammography from Cancer Care Ontario.

“The mobile coach is an excellent example of how innovations in cancer care can impact people so positively,” said Bill Campbell, provincial program director for the Ontario Breast Screening Program, who was in Thunder Bay to mark the occasion.

“It’s one of the goals of Cancer Care Ontario and the OBSP that all women, no matter where they live, have access to the best quality cancer care and screening tools,” Campbell added.

With digital mammography, a breast X-ray still is performed the same way as with an analog, or film-screen, mammography unit.

Film-screen mammography still is considered a highly-effective screening method for the early detection of breast cancer, but digital mammography is an emerging technology that’s becoming more available across Ontario.

It is considered to be more effective for screening women under the age of 50 or women who have very dense breasts.

In Northwestern Ontario, digital mammography will benefit all women using the coach.

“The coach visits 30 communities like Northwestern Ontario, and some only once each year,” noted Raylene McGhee, manager of Screening Programs with Regional Cancer Care at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

“If you live in Red Lake, for example, and your breast screening image has to be redone, you might have to wait another year for the coach to return or travel to another community,” she remarked.

“The biggest advantage to having digital mammography on the coach is that the mammography technologist can view the image immediately.

“If there is a problem with the quality or technical factors of the image, another image can be performed while the woman is still on the coach,” McGhee said.

The Northern Cancer Research Foundation is a key partner in this initiative that will have a significant impact on cancer screening services in this region.

“Supporting breast cancer screening and research is a very important part of the NCRF’s mandate,” said NCRF board member Jody Nesti.

“Every year, thousands of local residents support the improvement of breast cancer care through events such as the Bachelor Auction, the Luncheon of Hope, and many other community events.

“This announcement further demonstrates the NCRF’s commitment to funding leading-edge cancer care in Northwestern Ontario, and we are proud to say that 100 percent of funds raised by the NCRF stay in our region,” Nesti added.

All women age 50 and over should have a mammogram every one-two years. For more information or to book an appointment, call 1-800-461-7031.

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