CRH gets mammogram machine
MOUNT SALEM, St James — Patients in need of screening for early breast cancer are now able to obtain the service at Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in St James.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, through the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), officially handed over one of two new mammogram machines to CRH. The other machine, which is yet to be commissioned into operation, is located at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH). Each cost $47 million.
With the donations the Southeast Regional Health Authority and Western Regional Health Authority now have machines, but Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton aid more needs to be done.
“I am prepared to say that what we have is not enough given the extent of the problem and the fact that we need to do more around public education and early detection,” he said on Thursday.
He spoke of the importance of all four regions having machines and said the ministry is currently working on equipment for the North East as well as the southern regional health authorities.
Tufton noted, however, that the availability of resources is just one aspect of the challenges faced.
“It is also around the people to man and support such an effort, and that’s another aspect of the commitment that we have to look at to ensure that the ecosystem [can] support screening,” he said.
“In addition to that we should also look to mobile screening which, again, is technology which has to be lodged within the mobile unit. I have asked for that to be employed… A lot of people, even though they know about the issues, are not willing or motivated to come where the screening takes place,” the minister added.
He pointed out that the primary causes of cancer are lifestyle-related and genetic issues. With that in mind, the ministry will be launching a programme that explores the impact of items such as ultra-processed foods. Tufton said the ministry will be hiring an executive chef who will provide tips on how to prepare healthy meals.
“It is going to have to be done through a demonstration effect, and part of that demonstration effect is to broaden public health beyond hospitals and doctors and to promote lifestyle — that is what we are hoping to achieve,” he said.
Breast cancer is the primary cause of cancer-related deaths in women.
Each year, up to 350 of the approximately 1,300 women diagnosed with breast cancer die due to complications from the disease.
While prostate cancer is the primary cause of cancer-related deaths in men, they too can suffer from breast cancer and should get early check-ups. The machine at CRH is available for screening individuals over the age of 35, with or without a doctor’s referral.
The equipment donated to CRH and KPH are the first for the public sector, even though a mammography machine already exists at University Hospital of the West Indies, a public/private institution. There are also similar machines available within the private sector, such as at Jamaica Cancer Society.
The machine at Cornwall was installed last December, followed by a series of training sessions which ended in May. Pilot training of staff then lasted until September. The machine was made available to the public for screening earlier this month, which is being commemorated as Breast Cancer Month.