The mobile digital mammography unit visits more than 200 rural communities, including First Nations communities every year to screen women for breast cancer. (BC Cancer photo)

Mammograms offered through mobile unit

The BC Cancer service offers a mobile mammogram unit to screen women for breast cancer in rural areas.

The mobile unit consists of a truck inside of which digital mammogram equipment is installed and the technologists can view the mammogram results immediately. There are three trucks that serve rural and remote communities.

But the service is sometimes affected by mechanical problems and during this year there were 16 days of unplanned downtime for the vehicle, eight of them while the truck was in northern British Columbia. For those days of downtime the mobile unit rescheduled the appointments.

“When mechanical issues requiring immediate vehicle services occur, our client services team begin outreach to women informing them of the cancellation and discussing alternate options which could include rescheduling or offering another location to receive their screening mammogram,” as Andrea Visscher, BC Cancer spokesperson told Lakes District News.

More than three dozen appointments were canceled in Burns Lake on Feb. 11 and June 25 due to vehicle problems. The February appointments were rebooked to May 10 and 11.

“Of the 38 women who were impacted on June 25, the majority of them have been rebooked for October,” Visscher said.

“The mobile unit visits Burns Lake three times a year. In 2018 approximately 150 women booked an appointment. The mobile unit will be in Burns Lake for three to four days and future visits are announced closer to the date on the clinic locator on the BC Cancer website.”

A local woman told Lakes District News that after her appointment was canceled in Burns Lake she was offered the opportunity to visit the mammogram bus in Smithers.

Visscher couldn’t confirm how many women have been referred to other locations for their appointments.

In this region, the mobile unit goes to the Burns Lake Hospital in Burns Lake, the Southside Health and Wellness Centre, the Granisle Community Health Centre and the Northwest Community College parking lot in Houston.

Those locations are among 170 rural communities and 35 First Nations communities the unit visits every year. The service’s online map also shows where the mobile and fixed location screenings are offered.

The trucks operate six days a week and perform about 10 per cent of the total mammograms done across the province.

As an early detection program for breast cancer, the mobile unit is not intended as a diagnostic or urgent care service, as Visscher explained.

“Women experiencing unusual breast health symptoms such as lumps, skin puckering, and nipple discharge, are not eligible for screening mammograms and are advised to see their doctor immediately for diagnostic testing.”

Women aged 40 and over are eligible to receive screening. The mobile unit is scheduled to come to Burns Lake again on Oct. 9.


Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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