Anyone who has had to go through the horror of breast cancer knows that one of the hardest parts is the waiting.
From the time doctors suspect something to an actual diagnosis can seem like an eternity. Sometimes women end up waiting not one, not two, but six or more weeks to find out whether suspicions over a lump will change their life forever.
But now the waiting game has been cut significantly for women of the North Okanagan.
The Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s mammography unit was a sea of pink Wednesday as women, doctors and staff celebrated an advancement in detection of the most frequently diagnosed cancer.
Almost instant results are now available to radiologists with the new Bioptics BioVision specimen radiography system.
The state-of-the art piece of diagnostic equipment is one of only two of its kind in B.C.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have the only one outside of Vancouver,” said Dee Paterson, past chair of the Wine, Women and Woods committee, which was instrumental in getting the new technology to Vernon with $75,000 in proceeds from the 2010 golf tournament.
The $98,000 machine comes to town thanks to Wine, Women and Woods, as well as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation B.C./Yukon, and additional funds from local donations to the VJH Foundation.
“It’s changing the way that we diagnose very early breast cancer,” explains radiologist Dr. Glenn Scheske. “We can No. 1 do a better job and a faster, more efficient job.
“We do cut off about six weeks for the average patient from when we find something wrong to when they are diagnosed.”
Every week radiologists perform four to five stereotopic biopsies in the unit and breast biopsies in the operating room. Previously, radiologists would take specimens, hoping they had enough to confirm a diagnosis, but would sometimes have to call patients back for further specimens. Or patients would need to be called back to have an operative biopsy.
“Now, whereas the one or two out of 10 that had to have an operative biopsy, with this machine now they don’t have to do that.”
The BioVision allows radiologists to instantly X-ray specimens while the patient remains in the unit, therefore, if needed, further specimens can be taken without delay. In the OR surgeons can also determine that adequate tissue has been taken while the patient is still under anesthesia.
“We will be able to offer our patients a higher quality service with decreased apprehension, and a vastly improved patient experience,” said Scheske.
Along with improved accuracy and almost instant results, the machine also produces a digital image to attach to patient’s files, versus the old X-ray films.
“Indeed, we are closer to a future without breast cancer,” said Linda Morris, CBCF BC/Yukon executive director.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, Dalvir Nahal knows personally how much a friendly process can make all the difference during a traumatic time.
Although the BioVision machine wasn’t at the hospital at the time she was tested for breast cancer, she credits the exceptional treatment of staff and doctors to easing her mind (during a difficult process).
“People complain, but it’s just amazing the service for this small town,” said Nahal, who is also a VJH Foundation director, and is on a personal mission to raise $50,000 for the hospital’s cancer centre – and she’s already halfway there.
In 2010, an estimated 23,200 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,300 will die of it. In B.C. alone, an estimated 2,800 women were diagnosed and 640 will die of it.