Mobile screening van offers mile of prevention
Black Diamond: Mammogram unit providing free exams this week
Wednesday, Apr 19, 2017 06:00 am
A mobile clinic is rolling into Black Diamond this week to help detect breast cancer in women before it’s too late.
Alberta Health Services’ free breast cancer screening unit will be parked in the Oilfields General Hospital’s parking lot April 21 to 24 for its annual visit. Screenings take place daily from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“We still have lots of appointments available so there’s still time to make an appointment,” said Harmony McRae, community coordinator with Screen Test. “There’s space for about 100 appointments. It was full last year and it’s about 60 per cent full now.”
McRae said women between the ages of 50 and 74 should receive mammograms once every two years as a preventative measure to combating breast cancer.
“Mammograms are the only test we have that are evidence based and shown to be reliable to find breast cancer in the early stages,” said McRae. “They can find breast cancer two to three years before the cancer is large enough to be felt. That’s what saves women’s lives is the early detection. They allow you to see the changes in breast tissue over time.”
McRae said a few minutes of discomfort is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
She added the equipment used to detect cancer in the breast has come a long way over the years.
“The new generation of equipment we have is a lot better than it used to be,” she said. “Because the technology is much better we don’t have to compress the breast tissue as much. It’s getting better all the time.”
McRae added that the process doesn’t take very long. She said an exam can be over in just 10 minutes.
“We take four pictures - two of each side of the breast,” she said. “We try to make it as comfortable as we can. Our technicians at the mobile unit, that’s all they do is mammograms so they are really good at it.”
McRae said 80 per cent of breast cancer is discovered in women ages 50 years and older, that’s why screening is so important.
“Lower density breast tissue (common in older women) often means the cancer grows slower and is often found in the early stages for women tested regularly,” she said.
Detecting breast cancer in younger women can be more difficult due to a higher density in breast tissue, said McRae. She said dense tissue often increases the chances of more aggressive cancer.
McRae recommends women in their 40s talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of getting screened.
Alberta Health Services statistics show that 57 per cent of Alberta women ages 50 and older are screened regularly. McRae would like to see that number increase.
“That means that 43 per cent of the women that should be screened are not being screened,” she said. “Screening is a preventative tool.”
Those wanting to book an appointment for a screening in Black Diamond or any other community can call 1-800-667-0604.