Screening boost as new units hit road

MORE women in Essex are set to be checked for breast cancer after a �814,000 investment in three state-of-the-art screening units.

The new mobile vans, which will be positioned around north Essex, will be fitted with �150,000 digital mammography machines, replacing existing analogue devices.

Monica Dale, superintendent radiographer at Chelmsford and Colchester NHS Breast Screening Service, said: “Previously we had a total of three X-ray machines on two units so having three new units with a machine on each gives us more flexibility in delivering the service.

“Having digital machines means we can also screen 60 women a day instead of 45. Digital images can be viewed on computer screens and forwarded on at the push of a button, so it is more efficient than traditional film X-rays.

“Women having mammograms on a digital machine will notice very little difference in the examination but for staff, each examination not only takes less time but involves less effort too. We will also completely do away with film and chemistry.”

The first of the units – named by radiographers as “Poppy” – went into service at Colchester General Hospital earlier this month. It is expected to screen women from Colchester until December or January before moving on to a new location in north Essex.

A second unit, called “Bluebell”, will be parked at the Blackwater Leisure Centre, Maldon, from Friday, August 17.

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Meanwhile health chiefs have yet to decide where a third unit, named “Crocus”, will be located at from September.

The units – which consist of a reception room, three changing cubicles, an X-ray room and a staff area – will be decorated with a colourful swirl design, in a bid to make them look less clinical.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme was set up in 1988 to detect breast cancer at a very early stage. It provides free screening every three years for all women in the UK aged 50-70 but from September, as part of a six-year nationwide trial, some women in the Chelmsford and Colchester areas aged 47-49 and 71-73 will also be invited for mammograms.

In order to meet the increased demand, the Chelmsford & Colchester NHS Breast Screening Service is recruiting three additional radiographers to add to its current total of 21.

The service is run by Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust and Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust.

As well as the mobile units, it provides breast screening at Essex County Hospital, Colchester, and also at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford.

It is estimated that routine breast screening, which can help to find small changes in the breast before there are any other symptoms or signs, saves the lives of 1,400 women in England every year.

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