Screening hubs get state of art machines

SIMON EDWARDS
Last updated 09:53 05/02/2013
HUTBreastweb
SIMON EDWARDS

Examining the new digital mammography screening machine in BreastScreen Central’s refurbished mobile unit are, from left, radiographer Yvonne Clarke, administrator Adelle Rudman and service manager Donna Brown.

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The launch last week of the refurbished mobile screening unit has put the region's new digital mammography service on the road.

Hutt Valley District Health Board delivers breast screening services to nearly 25,000 women a year in the region.

In a project usually done in stages over years, local services have been switched from analogue (X-ray film) to digital in eight months.

A third digital mammography machine is being installed at the Hutt Hospital headquarters of BreastScreen Central.

A digital unit is running at Kenepuru Hospital, in Porirua, where capacity has doubled.

BreastScreen Central also sub-contracts Pacific Radiology to run a digitalised mammography service for Wellington women at Wakefield Hospital.

Service manager Donna Brown said the mobile unit - in a truck- drawn trailer - worked in Kapiti, Wellington South and Wairarapa, where it was the sole mammography service.

The unit, which has a generator, reception and change room, has been in use since 1999.

It has been totally overhauled inside and out, with the digital gear installed bringing the cost to $500,000.

Wellington's screening service is the sixth of eight in New Zealand to switch from film to computerised imaging.

The change was becoming urgent because the old equipment was increasingly at risk of failure.

"It was getting hard to find parts," Ms Brown said.

"We had a very aggressive time- frame [for the changeover], and all the time we had to carry on with business as usual."

The total cost is expected to be just over $4 million.

At last week's ribbon cutting at the mobile unit, Ms Brown said she became a "stalker" of HVDHB chief operating officer Pete Chandler, hounding him for sign- off for project milestones.

Breast care consultant Dr Madeleine Wall said the new machines were state of the art, and were better than X-ray for detecting abnormalities in younger [aged 45 to 50] women and those with dense breast tissue.

Though clients would not notice much change, the digital equipment was more ergonomic and easier to use, and processing was streamlined, ensuring a better, more timely service.

"Everywhere else in the world of radiology has gone digital . . . finally the evidence came out in 2006, that yes, this technology is fine for mammography, then suddenly everybody went."

SCREENING FACTS

- BreastScreen Central is available to women aged 45 to 69 and is about early detection of breast cancers to ensure treatment is early and positive outcomes are maximised.

- About 25,500 screens are carried out each year.

- The Hutt Hospital-based Breast Centre also offers a symptomatic service for Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHB populations. This is for women and men of any age referred by a GP. It sees up to 1600 patients a year.

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