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Keeping abreast of cancer at new clinic

Next week’s opening of a breast screening clinic on Masterton’s Chapel St will mark the end of Wairarapa women having to wait for a mobile screening truck to visit or travel over the hill for routine breast cancer screenings.

The new clinic, nestled in a southern section of the Times-Age building, will be a permanent fixture rather than relying on the screening truck that has started to show signs of its age in recent years and struggles to get over the Remutaka hill.

Te Whatu Ora Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley identified issues with mobile screening several years ago and, as a result, work began in 2020 to increase screening services to Greater Wellington.

The Masterton clinic will be staffed only by women to ensure there is a heightened level of comfort – especially for those who may not be familiar with the breast screening process – and will have the capacity to screen 25–28 women per day.

The screening involves taking four pictures – two from the front and one from each side, with the machine able to move in multiple directions for comfort [the machine’s ability to be adjusted will allow even those in wheelchairs to get routine screenings – something which isn’t possible in most mammography trucks].

Lead medical imaging technician Yvonne Clarke explained the screening process and how the paperwork often takes longer than the imaging.

The machine compresses the breast tissue firmly so that it can detect cancers the “size of a pinhead” and reduce fine movements – which could necessitate a re-scan if the images come up blurry.

Clarke explained that live images can be seen by the mammographer, which will allow them to pick up any unclear imaging straight away.

Whānau wishing to provide moral support for their loved ones are welcome to come sit in the waiting area, where toys, couches, and beanbags will be provided while waiting.

Once it opens on Monday, October 16, the clinic will open every weekday [including public holidays] until Christmas, with a late night on Wednesdays, while there’s also the possibility of opening on Saturdays in the new year, dependent on demonstrated demand.

Finding an appropriate building in the region proved to be one of the more time-consuming tasks, and the clinic could have been open earlier if a suitable site had been found.

The current screening age window is 45 to 69 years, though Labour and National have both pledged to raise the breast cancer screening age to 74. for those who may not be familiar with the breast screening process – and will have the capacity to screen 25–28 women per day.

The screening involves taking four pictures – two from the front and one from each side, with the machine able to move in multiple directions for comfort [the machine’s ability to be adjusted will allow even those in wheelchairs to get routine screenings – something which isn’t possible in most mammography trucks].

Lead medical imaging technician Yvonne Clarke explained the screening process and how the paperwork often takes longer than the imaging.

The machine compresses the breast tissue firmly so that it can detect cancers the “size of a pinhead” and reduce fine movements – which could necessitate a re-scan if the images come up blurry.

Clarke explained that live images can be seen by the mammographer, which will allow them to pick up any unclear imaging straight away.

Whānau wishing to provide moral support for their loved ones are welcome to come sit in the waiting area, where toys, couches, and beanbags will be provided while waiting.

Once it opens on Monday, October 16, the clinic will open every weekday [including public holidays] until Christmas, with a late night on Wednesdays, while there’s also the possibility of opening on Saturdays in the new year, dependent on demonstrated demand.

Finding an appropriate building in the region proved to be one of the more time-consuming tasks, and the clinic could have been open earlier if a suitable site had been found.

The current screening age window is 45 to 69 years, though Labour and National have both pledged to raise the breast cancer screening age to 74.

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