Hospital gets new mammography machine

BARRY’S BAY – St. Francis Memorial Hospital (SFMH) is committed to saving lives and staff want the public to know.

The purchase of a new digital mammography machine in combination with their Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) will make a world of difference to patients and help to save lives, staff say.
The decision to purchase the $400,000 machine was made last spring. The SFMH Foundation made the commitment to raise the funds – outside of the $1.2 million capital equipment campaign.
Previously, the main diagnostic tool for the hospital was an analogue mammography unit. In other words, the machine used film processing, Chief Operating Officer for the hospital, Jeremy Stevenson explained. The 19-year-old machine worked well, staff agreed, but not as well as the new digital unit will.
Like a digital camera, digital mammography enables staff to manipulate and enlarge images to see breast tissue more clearly, Manager of Diagnostic Imaging and Certified Breast Imaging Technologist, Alison Bishop said.
What’s more, “It’s much easier to operate, a much better machine and much quicker for women,” Bishop added.
And the benefits are many.
The machine will enable staff to see more patients on a daily basis, for instance.
In the past, analogue mammogram appointments would take about 30 minutes on average per patient. Although it varies with each person, making the switch to digital enables staff to complete a mammogram test in about 15 to 20 minutes, Bishop elaborated. In addition, in cutting down on wait times, this also cuts down on the time women are often waiting and worrying, she said.
“The longer these tests take, women often think to themselves waiting, ‘oh no, they must have found something, what’s taking so long,’” she said.
Overall, the new digital machine will help to run the OBSP much more efficiently at SFMH. In turn this will help patients and staff, Bishop summarized.
“This machine is a gift,” she said.
Furthermore, the new unit helps to make testing not as painful, a recent patient of the OBSP program, Margaret Haskin explained.
The new digital machine will also help with the elimination of chemical processing, contributing to a healthier environment, Stevenson said.
What’s more, according to staff, their community program has had the highest rate of initial mammography exams in Ontario. This is largely in part because of the distance between the next nearest sites – there is no other equipment or programs available within 85 kilometres to the east, and about 200 kilometres to the south and west. For community members, having access to such a machine in this area means everything, Toni Lavigne-Conway,
executive director for the SFMH Foundation said.
“This machine saves lives,” Lavigne-Conway said.
And early detection is the key, according to Health Canada. When breast cancer is found earlier on, there are better treatment options available and a greater chance of success.
SFMH staff agree, adding, when breast cancer is found early, when it is small, there’s a good chance patients can be cured.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canadian women, according to Health Canada. In addition, it’s the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Canadian women. About one in nine Canadian women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.
And no one is untouchable – last year, SFMH staff saw about 1,100 patients who needed mammograms, either through their breast screening programs or by referral from a physician.
Studies show regular screening can reduce deaths from breast cancer as much as one-third for women ages 50 to 69, according to Health Canada.
And with the purchase of their new digital mammography machine, SFMH is hoping they can help.
Story continues in the April 3, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.