Machine gives HSA edge

Digital mammograms now possible

The Cayman Islands Health Service has a new weapon in the fight against breast cancer with the latest in imaging technology.

Lagene Johnson prepares the digital mammography machine

Radiographer Lagene Johnson prepares the digital mammography machine for the next patient while colleague Pamela Vaughan-Duncan checks the imaging equipment at the George Town Hospital Radiology unit. Photo: Basia Pioro

The HSA received the donation of a $450,000 Hologic Lorad Selenia Full Field digital mammography machine, along with supplementary equipment, from the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.

Mammography has been the standard method for screening and detecting breast cancer in women for over 35 years. Traditional mammography machines produce an X-ray image of breast on film.

The Society says studies have shown that 10 per cent to 20 per cent of breast cancers that are detected by self or clinical exam are not visible on the films. Poor image quality hinders detection, and sometimes, the mammogram needs to be repeated.

With digital mammography, the image is electronically generated and viewed on a computer screen.

Advantages of digital mammography are that the radiologist can adjust the magnification, orientation, brightness and contrast of the image to provide a better view of a specific area. The image can also be emailed to other locations for further analysis if necessary.

In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005, digital mammography was shown to be better than film mammography in imaging studies of women under 50, and of women who were peri- or pre-menopausal, improving cancer detection rates by as much as 15 per cent.

The Society raised the funds for the machine’s purchase through a campaign which was kicked off 12 December. The funding for the mammography machine and future projects like it are administered by the newly established Women Helping Women Memorial Fund.

While the primary goal of the fund will be to raise money through its own fundraising efforts, a solid income source is already in place: the HSA will be donating 10 per cent of what it charges for use of the machine back into the fund.

Baptist Health has also contributed $10,000, which committee members anticipate will be an annual gift.

On the funds’ committee are three representatives of the Society’s board of directors, three members of the HSA, an independent member and a non-voting Ministry representative.

Committee member Dr. Sook Yin said the Fund was established in the interest of maintaining stewardship continuity in a world that often sees a lot of institutional change.

‘In recognition that the HSA has a number of pressing priorities at the present time, we are doing this to provide a reliable, additional health-related service to the Cayman community.’

‘Through this public-private partnership we have shown we can achieve a needed goal without having to sacrifice existing services,’ she said.

‘We hope that we will be able to use the fund to purchase other needed equipment that the HSA will be able to use not only in the treatment of cancer but, if need be, in other capacities as well. For example, an ultrasound machine we purchase through the fund can also be utilized by other departments.’

Dr. Yin is hopeful that the new mammography machine and other future services and equipment donated through the fund will be able to help Caymanian women for generations to come.

Cancer Society Manager Christine Sanders was proud of the fundraising accomplishment.

‘Through these cooperative efforts of the donors who made this possible, this machine will be able to help each and every Caymanian by reaching every mother, sister, aunt, daughter, or friend who is touched by breast cancer,’ she said.

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