Digital mammography taking off
New unit reaping many benefits
The recent launch of the refurbished mobile screening unit puts the region’s new digitalised mammography service on the road.
Hutt Valley District Health Board delivers breast screening services to nearly 25,000 women a year around the region.
In a project usually done in stages over years, local services have been switched from analogue (X-ray film) to digital in eight months.
A third and final digital mam- mography machine is being installed at the Hutt Hospitalbased headquarters of BreastScreen Central.
A digital unit is working at Kenepuru Hospital in Porirua, where a second change room has also been built, which will double that service’s capacity.
BreastScreen Central also subcontracts Pacific Radiology to run a digitalised mammography service for Wellington women at Wakefield Hospital.
Service manager Donna Brown said the mobile unit – a huge articulated trailer unit – is kept busy in Kapiti, Wellington South and particularly in the Wairarapa, where it is the sole mammography service.
The unit, which has an onboard generator, reception and change room, has been in use since 1999.
It has been totally overhauled inside and out, with the digital gear installed bringing the cost to $500,000.
Wellington’s screening service is the sixth of eight around the country to switch from film to computerised imaging. The total cost is expected to be just over $4 million.
Breast care consultant Dr Madeleine Wall said the new digital screening machines are stateof-the-art. While the images they produce take longer to examine, they’re better than X-ray film for detection of abnormalities in younger [aged 45 to 50] women and those with dense breast tissue.
A big advantage is that images can be called up instantaneously on a computer screen anywhere, including when women shift to other regions.
‘‘In the future, I’ll be able to call up past images immediately on screen rather than waiting a week or so for film to be found and sent.’’
Ms Brown said while clients won’t notice much change – ‘‘they’ll still have to have their breast squeezed by a machine’’ – the digital equipment is more ergonomic and easier for staff.
Processing is streamlined.