Breast screening goes mobile

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is launching seven new mobile breast screening units, the arrival of which marks the start of a new era for breast screening in Northern Ireland.

They will be located across Northern Ireland and are fitted with the latest screening technology within a welcoming environment which will improve the overall breast screening experience for women.

Breast screening can detect cancer at an early stage, improving the chance of a successful recovery and reducing the risk of dying from the disease. Approximately 1,300 lives are saved each year in the UK as a result of the Breast Screening Programme.

Dr Adrian Mairs, Quality Assurance Director for the Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme, said, “Not only have we replaced our existing five mobile units, but we have increased the number to seven. This increases the potential of bringing the service closer to more communities and making it more accessible to women.

“These mobile units represent a significant upgrade on the old mobiles and will provide women with a much better screening experience. They are all fitted with lifts for women who cannot manage steps and hearing loops for those who need them.

“In addition to the new mobile units we have also furbished the fixed sites in Linenhall Street and at Altnagelvin Area Hospital; and replaced the existing mammography machines with new state-of-the-art digital machines. This means that images are no longer printed onto film but are viewed and stored electronically. The image quality is higher which will assure women attending for screening that the latest technology is being used to detect early breast cancer.

“All women aged 50 to 70 in Northern Ireland are invited for breast screening every three years. Already, 75% of these women attend for breast screening, but there is still room for improvement. Although women aged over 70 are not automatically invited, I would also encourage them to ring their local breast screening unit to make an appointment, as they too are entitled to breast screening every three years.”

The mobile units have been commissioned and designed to provide a better environment for both clients and staff. Attention has been given to the needs of all women who attend and as a result includes disability access, a hearing loop and a layout that complements attendees’ expectations regarding security, modesty and confidentiality.

Most women will now be invited to attend for breast screening at one of the new mobile units; except for women in the Belfast Area, who will continue to be invited to Linenhall Street, and a small number of women in Derry/Londonderry, who will continue to be invited to Altnagelvin Area Hospital.

Dr Mairs continued: “Approximately 230,000 women are due to be invited for screening across Northern Ireland over the next three years.

“In order to encourage as many women as possible to attend for their breast screening appointment, local trusts are increasing the number of locations they will use, including alternative sites throughout the community.

“I hope this new investment will encourage more women – and especially women over the age of 70 – to make an informed choice about attending for regular breast screening.”

Details of the dates and locations where you will be able to see the units across Northern Ireland until 2016 is available at www.cancerscreening.hscni.net

The PHA has published an online video to show women what to expect when attending for breast screening, this can be viewed at: www.cancerscreening.hscni.net/Breast%20Screening%20video.htm

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