By Lindsey Turnbull
A new mammogram machine for the George Town Hospital is needed urgently, with the current machine now needing replacing; it is more than 10 years old and frequently breaking down. Fundraising is now underway to replace the current machine as quickly as possible.
Mammograms play a significant part in the early detection of breast cancer for many women, so ensuring that medical facilities have reliable and cutting edge technology is vital in helping to detect and cure the disease.
Long-term residents in the Cayman Islands may remember the lengths went to by the local community to raise funds for a new mammogram machine for the George Town Hospital with many local residents giving money to the Women Helping Women Memorial Fund launched by the Cayman Islands Cancer Society in 2005 to raise funds to purchase the machine. The following year the Cancer Society announced their goal of U.S.$300,000 had been reached to purchase a new digital mammography system, thanks to support from the local community.
Now that it is time to replace this machine, the Cayman Islands Cancer Society, the Health Services Authority and the Breast Cancer Foundation have been working towards raising funds for the procurement of a new mammogram machine.
Dr. Delroy Jefferson, The HSA’s medical director, confirmed their current machine was donated by the Cancer Society some 11 years ago.
“At that time it was the first of its kind in the region,” he said. “Considering its current age and its use in over 15,000 mammograms performed at the HSA, it is now at the end of its life and needs to be upgraded. The cost of such an upgrade is approximately $500,000.”
Dr. Sook Yin, Cayman Islands Cancer Society director said that a percentage of the proceeds from the mammograms undertaken at the HSA is placed in a specially targeted account to be used in any reasonable cancer-related project.
“Through this account, a good amount of monies have been allocated thus far towards the new mammogram machine,” Dr. Yin said. “We will be able to allocate a substantial sum to jump start the fundraising because 10 percent of the 15,000 or so mammograms undertaken at the George Town Hospital (at around $200 a mammogram) have been placed into a cancer care fund. We have used some funds from this account to pay for a much-needed breast biopsy machine as well as purchasing an upgraded Pap smear testing system, but we will still have a substantial sum to donate.
“We very much hope that the Ministry of Health will also find funds to donate to the mammogram machine purchase,” Dr. Yin added. “Patients under the Government’s CINICO health insurance are required to use the George Town Hospital facilities and upgrading the facilities at this hospital benefits the entire community.”
Dr. Jefferson underscored the need for an upgraded mammogram machine. “The early detection of breast cancer usually reduces the risk of fatality by 25 to 30 percent among women with the disease,” he said. “For this reason it is important for us ensure the equipment we use for mammography is up-to-date and efficient in order to provide our patients with the most accurate results. The HSA is pleased to be involved in this public-private partnership with the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Breast Cancer Foundation which seeks to benefit cancer patients, in addition to the wider community.”
The Breast Cancer Foundation provides the funding for a large number of the mammograms performed in Cayman. The HSA performs more than 100 per month and there are also machines at Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital and Medlab and a mammogram is the primary diagnostic tool for identifying and diagnosing breast cancer, they say.
Directors of the Breast Cancer Foundation said in a statement: “In our Wellness Programme we have 95 survivors of Breast Cancer, around 22 of whom are undergoing treatment as we speak. The true incidence of breast cancer in Cayman is much higher, as many seek treatment overseas post diagnosis and do not return. The mammogram machine at HSA was purchased in 2005 and had a 10-year useful life, so its replacement is definitely warranted. The proposed new machine will not only be state-of-the-art in terms of diagnosis, but will also be much more comfortable for patients.
“In addition it provides guided biopsy support which greatly improves accuracy, thus giving the patients the option of having a highly accurate biopsy performed on island instead of having to travel overseas. The Breast Cancer Foundation is fully supportive of this key replacement initiative and will fully play its part when it comes to fund raising.”