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Hospital offers new digital breast screening service

PUBLISHED: 07:43 06 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:06 03 July 2010

Sue Jones, Head of breast Imaging at the James Paget Hospital with their new digital breast screening equipment

Sue Jones, Head of breast Imaging at the James Paget Hospital with their new digital breast screening equipment

A Norfolk hospital has become the first in the East of England to offer a fully digital breast screening service using technology that provides crystal clear images making it easier for cancers to be spotted.

A Norfolk hospital has become the first in the East of England to offer a fully digital breast screening service using technology that provides crystal clear images making it easier for cancers to be spotted.

The new equipment at James Paget University Hospital (JPH), Gorleston, has also been ergonomically designed to make screening a less uncomfortable process.

The hospital's refurbished breast unit - which also includes a new biopsy table and an ultrasound machine, funded by the Big C charity - will be officially opened on Monday by retired consultant breast surgeon Hugh Sturzaker.

The facilities - a major part of a £1.2m investment in breast cancer services - puts the JPH well ahead of the timeframe of the National Cancer Reform Strategy which requires breast screening units to have one digital mammography machine by 2010. None of the region's other hospitals can yet boast all digital equipment.

Dr Frances-Holly Archer, director of screening at the JPH, said “Our screening service has been transformed. Previously breast images were good but the technical advance of digital makes the pictures much sharper and should make cancers easier to pick up.

“The images we are able to take digitally are like a photograph - crisp and clean, giving a clear view of the breast where minute details can be looked at easily and magnified on computer.

“This is really important because when you are screening for breast cancer you are often looking for very small, subtle changes in the breast tissue.”

She said the digital process was also much smarter with images available for review much quicker.

“We are aiming for same day reporting for the screening programme which is much faster than our previous reporting which could take between four and five days,” she said.

Sue Jones, head of breast imaging, said: “Breast screening isn't typically a comfortable experience for women. The new equipment we've installed is ergonomically designed to take some of the discomfort out of screening.

“And the process is much improved too. Previously a patient would have an image taken and until the film was processed we wouldn't know if the quality of that image was good enough. For mobile screening, this could take up to 24 hours and only then would we know if we needed to recall a patient to take another image.

“Now we know instantly if the image is good enough for a clinician to review and make a decision on.”

She said the screening unit had also been revamped with extra consulting rooms in the outpatient clinic and a purpose-built second ultrasound room which was home to the Trust's latest ultrasound machine funded by Big C.

A prone biopsy table had been installed enabling those needing a biopsy to have the procedure undertaken while lying face down, making it more comfortable than the biopsy machine used previously where the patient had to sit up.

“The waiting area also has a flat screen television generously donated by the equipment manufacturers MIS,” she said.


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