Breast cancer screening will be available to Prince Rupert and Port Edward women once again, during the week of July 6 to 15, with the breast screening mobile imaging unit coming to the Civic Centre. There hasn’t been any breast cancer screening or imaging available in the area since November 2019, forcing women to travel to Terrace. Women between the ages of 50 to 74 are encouraged to make an appointment to be screened.
“One of the statistics I find chilling … one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. Screening mammography is the very best detection method for finding any kind of problems … before it can spread,” John Lowrie, mobile operations manager for the BC Cancer Breast Screening Program, said.
“Our mandate is to provide a service to women of British Columbia, regardless of where they live, so they are not having to drive miles or hours in order to get the health service,” Lowrie said.
The mobile unit is a provincially funded vehicle and is one of three in the province. One each is located in the Vancouver Island area, the Kootenays, and the North. The $1 million RV-style-van is equipped with state-of-the-art digital imaging technology equal to that found in hospitals and diagnostic centres, Lowrie said.
The mobile imaging suites are very nice with beautiful interiors, Lowrie said. They are complete with waiting area, changing area and imaging facilities. The modern technology serves for patient time on board to be less than 15 minutes and images to be received at the British Columbia Women’s Hospital within minutes of them being taken. This speeds up the process for radiologists to review the x-rays within a short time frame of a couple of days and then report back to physicians and patients.
“(On vehicle staff) are the trained experts at positioning the views to get the best images possible for the radiologist to review. But, if one of those technologists sees something, that they think from their experience is off, then they may ask for the case to be escalated.”
Lowrie said the current program has been running for four years and was previously coming to Prince Rupert twice a year. With some technologist staffing issues in the area, BC Cancer Breast Screening Program has stepped up to assist with the backlog in Prince Rupert.
Timing is critical Lowrie said. All women over 40 should be screened on a regular basis.
An important reason for regular screening is not just detection Lowrie said, but for comparison. He said it’s important for radiologists to be able to compare images year after year to see certain parts of the breast tissue, so if there are any suspicions they can look for any growth or odd boundary changes.
“Its super important to have a good history of mammograms so the radiologist can compare their findings.”
“One of the reasons we go to certain areas at certain times is the average woman should be getting a mammogram every two years, therefore it’s a good idea for us to be in the same places every year to match up the anniversary dates for people.”
Usually completing 50 to 60 mammograms a day in the mobile imaging suites, since COVID-19 the program has decreased the number down to 30 to allow for Ministry of Health cleaning and sanitizing guidelines and permit more time with patients to get the best images possible.
The technologists on the mobile vehicles have been with the screening program for years and are exceptionally trained medical radio-technologists, who do nothing but mammography, Lowrie said. They know how to make the best images for patients who may be in wheelchairs, who have mobility issues, they know how to deal with different size, density and sensitivity.
“Our staff are absolute experts at dealing with all kinds of patients,” Lowrie said. “Our technologists are wonderful people who will take very good care of you.”
To book a breast cancer screening call 1-800-663-9203 or visit the website www.screeningbc.ca
K-J Millar | Journalist
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