The University Hospital of the West Indies(UHWI) on Thursday opened a state-of-the-art Women's Imaging Centre to offer more affordable options for early breast cancer screening in Jamaica.
The centre, the first of its kind at a public hospital here, has come at a critical time as breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Jamaican women above the age of 25 years.
“Early detection is important but the only way to find cancers early is to screen before they become symptomatic. It allows us to find cancer that is more treatable for a better outcome and as such the treatment is less expensive; the cost to the woman is lower, and the cost for everyone is lower,” said Dr Derria Cornwall, consultant radiologist at the UHWI.
The unit is equipped with a 3D mammography unit which will take images of the breast layer by layer, instead of flat images as the previous 2D technology allowed, thereby increasing the cancer detection rate by 27 per cent and 40 per cent for invasive cancers.
The 3D mammography unit will produce fewer false positives and thus fewer callbacks. In one study in Norway, it found that 2D mammograms alone detected 61.1 callbacks per 1,000 exams compared to the 53.1 callbacks per 100 exams reported with the use of the 3D technology.
Dr Carl Bruce, medical chief of staff at UHWI said the move to open the centre forms part of a larger initiative to tackle a wide range of cancers affecting the population including cervical, lung and especially prostate cancer, which has increased at an alarming rate.
“Our strategy is to look on cancer overall and to identify what are the other problems that we are experiencing. The leading cause of death is cardiovascular disease and stroke, and so we felt that apart from screening for breast cancer we also needed to look at this part of the population in terms of how we are treating them and their access to care,” said Dr Bruce.The cost for screening at the centre will be drastically reduced and patients will soon be allowed to access the facility without a referral from a doctor.
James Moss-Solomon, chairman of the UHWI, in giving his support for the project reiterated the need for more inexpensive access to cancer screening in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
“If you add up the cost of not detecting early, the cost of treatment means that many persons have had to mortgage their homes, sell their cars and dip into their life-savings in order to get treatment for this terrible disease. This centre is open to all our colleagues across the region. The ability of this machine to treat more persons than we have been able to do in the past is an excellent achievement,” said Mr Moss-Solomon.
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, who was the guest speaker at the opening ceremony, said he's confident the centre will help to sensitise and motivate more Jamaicans to see the benefits of doing check-ups regularly.
“One of the biggest barriers to prevention practices is a need for change in culture where every Jamaican understands that getting their routine test should be no different from waking up in the morning and brushing one's teeth. I hope that the awareness that is created around this equipment from the data and information that will be produced, will cause us to pause and begin to make that change that is necessary for us to move forward”, said Minister Tufton