New mammography machine to help early cancer detection
Women now have a new weapon in the fight for early cancer detection with the acquisition of a digital imaging mammography machine at Delta Hospital.
The new machine provides health care professionals with a more detailed digital readout, eliminating the need for film processing and anxious moments waiting.
For Mayor Lois Jackson, who has lost one daughter to breast cancer and her other daughter recently had a mastectomy, this issue hits close to home.
"I continue to tell women or their children testing is really important, and for us to have our own digital imagery at the hospital is such a bonus for the people in this community."
Jackson says it's difficult, even at the best of times, to know for sure whether a mammogram will catch breast cancer in the earliest stages, which is why technological improvements are so important.
"I think that's what happened with my first daughter," says Jackson. "I think the old imagery was not as good as it could have been so I'm just delighted to have that capability for the people in our community."
The older analogue units used a chemistry-based film developing process, which took longer to get results. The new digital imaging allows technicians to view different depths unavailable with analogue scans. And there's no need for a dark room, magnifying glass, or bright lights.
"The analogy I use is with digital cameras," says Elaine Canning of the Delta Hospital Auxiliary, the organization responsible for buying the $700,000 machine for the hospital. "We started out with two megapixels and now we're up to 14 or 16."
"Everyone is moving to this but they haven't yet made that process," says Penny MacKenzie, head of medical imaging at Delta Hospital.
She says Delta is one of the lucky few to get the equipment, which is why the hospital is encouraging women to take advantage.
The hospital provides a mammogram screening both through self-referral appointment or a diagnostic screening with physician referral.
"It's so much quicker because we don't have to develop film, which would take three minutes," says Stacey Jones, a medical radiation technologist at Delta Hospital. They now get the image almost instantly.
It wasn't so long ago that Delta Hospital received its first diagnostic mammogram machine, eliminating the need for women to travel through the George Massey tunnel to Richmond Hospital. Prior to 1997, patients requiring a biopsy had to go to Richmond to have the wire inserted and then drive back through the tunnel before the local anesthetic wore off.
The learning curve to using the new machine isn't too steep, since technologists like Jones receive two and and a half years of formal education, years of on-the-job training, and continuous education to keep pace with rapidly changing health technology.
"I would say mammography is the hardest imaging we do," says Jones, explaining patients are quite nervous about the idea of cancer.
"We know it's stressful and we try to reduce that and make them laugh," says Elaine Canning.
"We talk non-stop," says Cheryl Mason, another medical radiation technologist. "The more involved the patient is, the more in-control the patient feels and comfortable about the process."
It's the people who come in nervous and don't want to talk who might find it more difficult dealing with the situation, she added.
Even men can benefit from the machine. A little known fact is that up to six per cent of men will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
"This is not just a female disease," says Canning.
The new machine was raised by the auxiliary through purchases in the hospital gift shop and their thrift store in Ladner. That income provides a continuous source of funding, so the hospital can get what it needs without asking the community for donations, says Canning.
"We couldn't do it without our volunteers," says Jones, referring to the auxiliary. "We call you guys our air traffic controllers."
[Editor's note — this article previously attributed quotes to technologist Linda Wilson, when it was actually Stacey Jones speaking. The Leader regrets the error]