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Medical imaging

VIHA first to offer digital mammo region-wide

VICTORIA – Women on Vancouver Island now have access to faster, more accurate breast cancer diagnosis with the introduction of digital mammography across Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), making it the first health authority in Canada to offer digital mammography to patients across its entire region.

“The availability of digital mammography technology across VIHA ushers in a new era in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer for women on Vancouver Island,” said Health Services Minister George Abbott. “Having this state-of-the art equipment in hospitals from Victoria to Campbell River means faster, more accurate breast cancer diagnosis – which can improve the cure rate for breast cancer patients across the Island.”

About $3 million worth of state-of-the-art digital mammography equipment and technology will have been installed at five Vancouver Island acute-care hospitals by November 2008.

“Ladies, don’t wait, go for your regular physical check up and mammogram,” said Twila Woods, a breast cancer survivor of four years from Victoria. “We all have busy lives, but what’s important is not how busy your life is, but your health.”

“With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, today’s announcement drives home the importance for women to go have a mammogram, as early detection is one of the best tools to ensure more and more women survive breast cancer,” said Ida Chong, Minister of Technology, Trade and Economic Development and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

Digital mammography produces sharp electronic images that can be manipulated on a computer screen to reveal greater detail. It can also penetrate the denser breast tissue of younger women.

While breast compression is still needed for mammography, digital equipment is faster than conventional film-based systems, reducing exam times and radiation exposure. Speedier workflows increase the number of exams that can be performed. Stored on computer, digital mammograms are easy to retrieve and can be transmitted electronically from one location to another, permitting off-line interpretation and expert consultation.

“Digital mammography is a huge step forward for patient care,” said Murray Coell, Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development and MLA for Saanich North and the Islands. “The new equipment raises the bar for detecting cancer and saving more women on Vancouver Island.”

“One of the greatest advantages of digital mammograms is quick accessibility at multiple sites,” said Dr. Stuart Silver, VIHA South Island section head of breast imaging. “Images can be viewed simultaneously by specialists throughout the health region to improve diagnosis and provide best possible patient care.”

“With the installation of the first two digital mammography units at Victoria General in 2005, the Vancouver Island Health Authority became one of the first to operate this kind of equipment in a B.C. hospital,” said Jac Kreut, VIHA board chair. “VIHA continues to be a pioneer in breast cancer care, expanding the potential for improved breast cancer care not just to patients in one select area but across our entire health region.”

British Columbia is a leader in cancer care and has some of the most favourable cancer outcomes in North America, including the lowest mortality rate and incidence rates for breast cancer. Province-wide, over 278,000 women received a screening mammogram in 2007/08. Currently, 50 per cent of eligible women on Vancouver Island between the ages of 50-69 receive this test.