Breast screening at MK Hospital goes digital

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NEW technology making it easier for medical staff to identify subtle changes on breast x-rays has been installed at the city’s screening unit.

The enhanced equipment was commissioned by NHS Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and effectively means breast screening has gone digital.

Implemented in February 2012, Milton Keynes CCG is now running a fully operational digital breast screening service at the breast screening unit in Milton Keynes Hospital.

The new digital technology makes it easier for staff interpreting the images to identify subtle changes on breast x-rays and especially in the breast tissue of women under 50. This is because digital breast x-ray units are much more sensitive than the old conventional x-ray film and so, smaller changes that could indicate early breast cancer, can now be seen more clearly.

Consultant Radiologist and Director of Breast Screening for Milton Keynes, Dr Amanda Havard, said: “Going digital has allowed us to implement the age extension programme making screening available to a wider group of women.

“We were previously restricted to the 50-70 year age group, but may now invite women aged between 47-73.

“Fifty percent of women will have the benefit of at least one extra breast screening invitation during their lifetime. Invitations are sent out randomly to those women at three year intervals.

“The benefits of better, more sensitive and accurate equipment are not limited to well woman screening but are also, of course, making noticeable improvements for women in the surgical breast clinics.

“I also wish to remind women older than 73 that an automatic invitation is not sent out, but women are welcome to telephone the unit to arrange their three yearly screens in person.”

And Breast Imaging Services Manager at Milton Keynes Hospital, Barbara Parsons, added: “The new technology provides a much quicker procedure for the patient, reducing the total time of discomfort throughout the examination.

“Digital images are displayed within 15 seconds following the x-ray and radiographers are able to make a decision on the spot if an image needs repeating.

“Very few women are called back to repeat images anymore following technically unsatisfactory studies. Going digital has been a huge advance.”

Milton Keynes Hospital now has two digital screening rooms on the hospital site and one on the mobile mammography unit.

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