The Screen Test Mobile Mammography program has been providing life-saving breast cancer screening services to rural and remote communities in Alberta since 1991. Today, this extremely successful program allows Albertans to undergo screening locally in over 120 communities across the province, including 26 indigenous communities. Between the program’s inception and December 2020, the Screen Test program has performed 530,217 mammograms, identifying 25,286 abnormalities with recommendations for additional testing, and detected 2,973 breast cancers.
Even today, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death among women. One out of seven women in Alberta will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. As most everyone has a mother, daughter, wife, girlfriend, or some woman in their life that they love and treasure, in a very real sense, breast cancer is an issue that affects everyone in our communities.
The early detection of breast cancer offers patients the best chances of survival and recovery. The current recommendations in Alberta are for women between the ages of 45 and 74 to be screened every two years. As such, the Screen Test program is an essential instrument in promoting and accommodating the regular screening of women in Alberta, regardless of their location.
The Screen Test program operates two mobile coaches. Over the last 11 years, these specialized units have travelled roughly 12,000 km per year and are unfortunately approaching the end of their lifespan. Both units have been upgraded and repaired multiple times over the years and have reached the point where they need to be replaced. As the units are approaching obsolescence, upgrading the current equipment is no longer an option and replacement parts may soon be discontinued. Any breakdowns in either unit would create delays in the essential services that they provide. At the same time, the demand for the services provided by the mobile Screen Test program has increased to a level that could keep three mobile units busy. There are no plans currently to add a third mobile unit.
Last fall, the Alberta Cancer Foundation (ACF) began a fundraising campaign to replace the aging mobile coaches and the specialized equipment essential to the Screen Test program. The new coaches will be based on an updated design using smarter, more integrated digital equipment, allowing the program’s technologists and radiologists to see more patients. The updated mammography equipment will also be capable of detecting abnormalities in a broader spectrum of breast tissue density.
The ACF aims to raise $3 million to fund this undertaking. They have already raised more than half of their ambitious goal, but they still need Albertans’ support to make it to the finish line.
Recognizing the essential role of the mobile Screen Test program in supporting the community’s well-being, the Swan Hills Hospital Foundation (SHHF) has pledged the proceeds of the 2023 Annual Duck Race to the ACF’s Screen Test fundraising campaign. In addition, the SHHF has challenged the citizens, businesses, and organizations of Swan Hills to join in with donating in support of this vital program.
Donations in support of the mobile Test Screen program can be made through the campaign’s website (albertacancer.ca/mobile). Remember to use the provided website address to donate to this specific program. Visit the Screening For Life website (screeningforlife.ca/breast/screen-test-mobile-clinics) for more information about the mobile Screen Test program.
Please consider supporting the well-being of the Swan Hills community and many other communities across Alberta by donating to the ACF’s campaign to replace and update the mobile Screen Test program vehicles and equipment. This program’s contributions to the health and well-being of Alberta’s rural and remote communities are truly indispensable.
The SHHF’s duck race will take place during the Canada Day celebrations again this year. Tickets will be on sale soon, watch Facebook, and at local businesses to get your duck in the race and help out this worthy program.
By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 29, 2023
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