A couple of years ago I went for my first mammogram. I booked an appointment when I suddenly realized that I was in my 40s. After my exam, the technologist handed me a flyer that reminded worst-case scenario people like me that 95 per cent of patients called back after their mammogram didn’t actually have breast cancer. The next day, I got a call back. And then another one. I read and reread that flyer a hundred times over the next few weeks, hand-wringing and thinking catastrophic thoughts. At the end of it I was cleared of any issues, and now have a brain full of WebMD facts and a sobering awareness that one in eight women in B.C. will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
Thanks to an ambitious campaign by the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation, there will soon be a new mammography imaging machine coming to the Cowichan District Hospital. Capable of producing 3D images using tomosynthesis, an imaging technology previously unavailable on the island, this high-tech machine uses low dose x-rays to capture images of breast tissue. It can also rotate to capture multiple images of tissues from different angles. This process results in a highly detailed image, increasing the likelihood of early detection of cancer.
Tomosynthesis imaging has been shown to increase detection of invasive cancers by 40 per cent and decrease false positive results by 15 per cent, which means less hand wringing for some of us.
Early detection of breast cancer saves lives because the cancer is usually smaller at earlier stages and therefore easier to treat than cancers that are detected later. As well, less toxic and gentler treatments are needed in early detected cases. Surgeries are also less invasive and less severe side effects occur with early intervention. Go tomosynthesis!
According to Erin Whiteford, Medical Imaging Supervisor at the Cowichan District Hospital, the new tomosynthesis machine should arrive at the end of April, with technologists receiving training around that time. Whiteford confirmed that this machine will replace existing machines and will have advanced screening and diagnostic capabilities.
The Cowichan District Hospital Foundation raised over $500,000 to purchase the machine, including a contribution in February from the Ladysmith Healthcare Auxiliary (LHA). “The LHA’s $25,000 donation was the last push in the campaign, allowing us to close the gap and purchase the machine,” explains Tracey Brown, interim director, Cowichan District Hospital Foundation. “We always appreciate the support of the LHA.”
If you are one of the roughly 3,000 people who are tested every year for breast cancer in the Cowichan Valley, you will likely be tested with this new machine. Thanks to the industrious and caring people at the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation and the various community groups who support them, women screening for breast cancer in the Cowichan Valley will now have access to some of the best technology available.