Breast screening £1.2m ‘revolution’

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THE breast imaging department at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds is to be revolutionised with a £1.2 million investment which will offer major improvements by as early as February.

Analogue equipment will be replaced with state-of-the-art digital machinery over the next four months.

The hospital’s existing two on-site mammography machines will be replaced and a third digital imaging room created to help increase capacity.

The hospital will also take delivery of a new digital mobile breast screening unit, which will replace the 12-year-old analogue unit currently in use within the community.

It means the hospital will have the capacity to meet the Government’s extension to the screening age which will be introduced locally in 2012.

Women are offered screening within three years of their 50th birthday and at three-year intervals until the age of 70. This will be extended to within three years of their 47th birthday, with the upper age limit eventually moving to 73.

Ann Hills, superintendent radiographer, said: “We are really pleased as the equipment will revolutionise the way we work, helping to provide an even better service.

“As well as producing images more quickly and efficiently, the move to digital has also freed up our old processing room, which has allowed us to add a third mammography room. This will help us to cater for more patients.”

Some 10,800 women are screened at the hospital and mobile units. This will rise to about 13,800.

At present, staff use chemicals to process analogue film and produce a hard copy image. Although it only takes around three minutes, patients cannot leave until completed and staff have confirmed the image has developed.

The latest machines increase efficiency by providing staff with high quality images within seconds. They reduce the number called back if there are technical problems.