Ontario replacing dozens of mammography machines

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Deb Matthews check out the state-of-the-art imaging equipment at the official opening of the Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Credits: Antonella Artuso/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency


Ontario is removing 76 breast cancer screening machines from circulation after a study revealed they are less effective than other technology in detecting tumours.

Computed radiography (CR) mammograms, which are used in 20% of testing, will be replaced with direct radiography (DR) and screen-film mammograms.

"We want to do this as quickly as possible," Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said Tuesday. "It's worth every single penny."

The government has put aside $25 million to pay for the new equipment which will be phased in as the new machines arrive.

Other machines will likely be used for longer hours to make up the difference, and any increase in wait times should be short-lived, she said.

Dr. Anna Chiarelli, senior scientist with Cancer Care Ontario, made the startling discovery, and her results were published in the journal Radiology.

NDP Health Critic France Gelinas said she hopes the transition to the new equipment goes well, and that women -- many already reluctant to be screened -- don't abandon the program.

Matthews said the risk to Ontario women that a cancer went undiagnosed by CR technology is "extremely low" but they should discuss any concerns with their primary care provider or Cancer Care Ontario.

Ontario's breast cancer screening program was being adjusted as news broke that Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy after discovering she carried a gene that it made it extremely likely she would get breast cancer.

In Ontario, women with the genetic markers or a strong family history of breast cancer can get the same surgery paid for by OHIP provided their physician recommends it.

"Any time there is public discussion about what could be a life-saving procedure, I think that's good. I think that's very good," Matthews said.

When asked about the expense of the surgery, Matthews said cancer comes with a huge cost as well.

"I can't imagine it would be more expensive to do this preventive procedure," she said.

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