A new digital mammography unit at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake will give patients access to the latest technology, shorter wait times for results and a less invasive exam.
“Screening saves lives,” Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said Wednesday during the official unveiling of the new equipment.
“I’m sure each of us knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. It impacts people from all walks of life.”
In 2015 it was estimated 3,400 B.C. women would be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 600 would die from the disease, she added.
Barnett thanked the Cariboo Foundation Hospital Trust and the Cariboo Chilcotin Regional Hospital District for making the purchase of the unit a possibility.
The project budget was $785,000, with the trust providing $471,000 and the CCRHD providing $314,000. It will replace an older unit that has been in place since 1999.
Cheryl Granger has been a mammographer at CMH for 28 years and has seen the equipment change during that time.
In the beginning of her career, every film took three minutes to process.
“When you booked a procedure, you were there for at least a half an hour or 45 minutes,” she recalled.
One of the best things about digital technology for the technicians is it eliminates having to use developing chemicals, she added.
“All we do is position the patient, take the picture, it shows up and it’s beautiful.”
Being able to decrease wait times for patients is also important, Granger said.
“Once she has got a lump in her breast, it’s cancerous to that woman, it doesn’t matter what it is,” Granger said. “She’s not sleeping until the results come back and that’s a huge impact on everyone’s life around her.”
In 2015/2106, Cariboo Memorial Hospital performed 1,748 mammography exams, Interior Health board director Tammy Tugnum said, noting the majority, 1,078, were screening exams, while another 670 were diagnostic.
The new unit also includes a stereotactic breast biopsy attachment so clinicians can remove tissue samples for examination in a less evasive manner than a surgical biopsy.
“Before we had this tool, patients were required to travel outside of Williams Lake to access this procedure,” Tugnum said. “Now they will be able to have this care closer to home.”