BC acquires mobile vehicle for digital mammography

Dr Christine WilsonVICTORIA – British Columbia has acquired the first of three digital mobile mammography vehicles, as it works to improve breast cancer screening for women in rural and remote communities. Two other mobile coaches are scheduled for replacement in 2016.

The mobile unit visits the Gulf Islands, Central Vancouver Island including Tofino and Ucluelet, North Vancouver Island including Port Hardy and Port McNeill, as well as Bella Bella and Bella Coola annually.

The new coaches are equipped with a wheelchair lift, a spacious waiting area, and an examination room and are designed to fit on all BC Ferries, providing women with a comfortable and consistent mammography experience at all locations.

“Converting the mobile coaches to digital mammography offers greater efficiency in reporting, allowing radiologists to access both screening mammography and diagnostic images and reports on the same local system,” said Dr. Christine Wilson (pictured), medical director, Screening Mammography Program, BC Cancer Agency.

“With the new state-of-the-art digital coach, women will be able to walk onto the new vehicle and have a consistent, professional experience at a convenient location. The BC Cancer Agency Screening Mammography Program is a free, high quality program from which all women in B.C. can benefit.”

The transition from analog to digital is part of B.C.’s Provincial Breast Health Strategy and allows for greater efficiency in sharing of images. In addition, technologists will be able to see the images right away to ensure image quality, rather than waiting for the films to be developed when they return to their reporting centre.

“What an amazing addition to the communities throughout B.C. I have no doubt that countless lives will be saved by making screening mammograms more accessible,” said Christine Bowles, breast cancer survivor.

The Ministry of Health has provided $940,000 for the digital mobile mammography coach, and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Shoppers Drug Mart have provided additional support through sponsorship.

“We take great pride in granting the money that we are raising with our corporate partner, Shoppers Drug Mart, to the BC Cancer Agency so that we can support the purchase of this new digital mammography coach, and two more that are yet to be delivered,” said Wendy Slavin, CEO, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – BC/Yukon Region.

“With the addition of these coaches, more women in remote regions will now be served in greater comfort and privacy and they’ll benefit from the efficiency of digital mammography. It’s truly satisfying to see our commitment to early detection and the digital conversion of the province in action.”

The BC Cancer Agency recommends women ages 50-74 have a mammogram every two years. Women ages 40-49, and women 75 and older are encouraged to discuss the benefits and limitations of mammography with their doctor. If they choose to have a mammogram, it will be available every two years and a doctor’s referral is not needed.

“Shoppers Drug Mart’s WOMEN program is proud to support the BC Cancer Agency Mobile Mammography Service, in partnership with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation,” said Lise Kuramoto, vice president operations, B.C. Region, Shoppers Drug Mart.

“Thanks to the generosity of our customers and staff, funds to support this service were raised through Beauty Galas held at local Shoppers Drug Mart locations throughout B.C. We look forward to welcoming the new mobile mammography coaches to rural and remote communities throughout the province to help foster better access to life-saving cancer screening for all B.C. women.”

Eligible women can use the clinic locator at to either find a year-round fixed location near them, or view the schedule for the mobile mammography service in their area. For remote communities that the mobile coach is unable to access, assisted travel support is provided for eligible women in the community to attend either the nearest fixed centre or mobile stop.

Mobile vehicles visit more than 120 rural communities throughout B.C., including more than 35 First Nations communities annually, and perform about 10% of the total number of screening mammograms in British Columbia.

Overall participation in the screening program by First Nations women over the past three years has increased by 7%, and participation by South Asian women has increased by 3.6%, due in part to the mobile service.

Quick facts:
• The BC Cancer Agency’s Screening Mammography Program, established in 1988, was the first organized population-based screening program in Canada for the early detection of breast cancer.
• The provincial program has 37 fixed screening mammography centres throughout the province, and three mobile screening units that serve rural and remote communities in B.C.
• Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in Canadian women.
• B.C. has one of the lowest incidence rates and has the second lowest mortality rate of breast cancer in the country for those women who do get breast cancer.
• In 2015, an estimated 3,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in British Columbia, and approximately 610 will die from the disease.
• Mammograms help find cancer in its earliest stages – when there are more treatment options and a better chance for successful treatment.
• In 2013, 287,132 screening mammograms were performed in B.C., and 1,385 breast cancers were reported (4.8 per 1,000 exams).
• Research has shown a 25% reduction in deaths from breast cancer among women who are screened through the Screening Mammography Program.
• In 2013, 4,588 women were screened by the mobile unit in the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

Written by Editor

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