One of the best methods to detect breast cancer in women is coming to Stettler next month, courtesy of a mobile mammography unit operated by Alberta Health Services.
The mammography unit takes a specific type of x-ray of the woman’s breast, one which makes it easier to see any tumours.
According to Harmony McRae, the community coordinator for the project, a woman’s breast is like “a bag of marbles;” when held up, the marbles come together making it hard to see, but when laid flat on something and compressed, it becomes much more clear.
For women between the ages of 50 and 74, who are most at risk of developing breast cancer, the program provides opportunities to have the screening done in the home community rather than heading to Red Deer.
The program will see women 75 or older, as well as women between 40-49, but for the latter age group a written letter from a health care provider would be needed, according to McRae.
The process is simple: women with appointments arrive and fill out a questionnaire, change into a medical robe, and have the procedure performed. Roughly two weeks later, they will receive a letter with the results.
The mobile mammography trailer will be stationed in Stettler on Aug. 2, Aug. 5-9, and Aug. 11-13. Appointments must be made ahead, and can be booked by phoning 1-800-667-0604. McRae said there will be about 275 appointment slots, and while some have already been claimed, there’s still plenty available.
The number can also connect residents with staff who can answer questions and provide information.
The program, called Screen Test, provides access to cancer screening for hundreds of women in rural parts of the province where mammography is not readily available, Health Services stated in a press release.
The earlier the detection of cancer cells, the better the chances for recovery and the less chances of invasive measures, such as a mastectomy, in which breast tissue or the entire breast is removed.
McRae said the procedure is “definitely not comfortable,” but said it is rarely painful.
The amount of discomfort varies between patients, but McRae noted the newer machines used by the two travelling units are more comfortable than the older units.