Breast screening made easier at Alexandra Marine & General Hospital

AMGHfrontentranceGODERICH  – A new mammography machine is making it easier for women to have screening for early signs of breast cancer at the Alexandra Marine and General Hospital.

Since it was installed in December 2011, the Siemen’s Inspiration Digital Mammography machine is quickening the process and reducing the pain in a procedure that compresses the breasts.

“The new compression paddle alone is a big advantage for the patient’s comfort. It comes down much slower so it is less startling and the women just find it more comfortable.  Less compression is now required to obtain a better image than with the old machine,” said Wendi Allinson, who has been doing mammography for nine years.

Jan Jamula, who is a mammographer, said the images only take seven seconds from the press of the exposure button to the time they appeared on the workstation monitor.  She remembers the old film-screen days when patients had to wait about 10 minutes while the technologist developed the images.  Seven seconds means that the mammographer can check that the image is okay before going on to perform the next shot.

“The whole exam is just so much easier and faster,” she said.

Technologists and radiologists viewing the images describe them as “beautiful”, “eye-popping” and “amazing.”

“There is detail where there was none before and they look like fine crystal they are so sharp”, said Colleen Maguire, who is a former mammographer.

Alexandra Marine & General Hospital is an affiliate of the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), offering the program for the past 12 years.

mammography1In 2009, the local OBSP program was suspended temporarily while the diagnostic imaging department was under construction at the time of the CT’s arrival. During this renovation period the mammography suite was redesigned for the comfort and privacy of patients.

During the time when the department was under construction, many women whose mammogram was due continued in the program by travelling to another affiliated site. These women do not have to continue to travel out of town even though their reminder letter was generated by the last site they visited, hospital officials say.

“We need to make the women that went out of town during our downtime aware that they can return to Goderich for the same service that they experienced at another OBSP site,” Maguire said.


The new mammography area has an en-suite change area and waiting room.  The images are read by the London X-Ray Associates, a group of radiologist who also provide services for St. Joseph’s Hospital in London. This group of radiologists travel to the Goderich site to read images and, in the event that further work-up is needed as a result of your screening mammogram, they provide follow-up procedures for women here in Goderich and in London.  This gives the women of Huron County access to the finest breast care possible, officials say.


Women can self-refer by calling the booking clerk at 519-524-8689 ext. 5274 for an appointment.

If the last mammography was at an affiliated site such as Stratford or Listowel, women may return to the Goderich program.

Physicians may also refer patients to the certified OBSP Centre.

Criteria for participation in the OBSP is:

  • 50 years old or older
  • No previous history of breast cancer
  • No previous breast surgery

Benefits of the Goderich OBSP:

  • Woman and doctor both receive a written report
  • Woman receives a reminder letter when the next mammogram is
  • London radiologists read the images
  • Initial follow-up can be done here on site
  • More advanced follow-up such as biopsy and MR can be performed at St Joseph’s Healthcare London
  • Screening mammography usually occurs every two years
  • If due to family history or personal preference woman may request a yearly screening mammogram.
Thingamaboob keychain.

Thingamaboob keychain.

The Canadian Cancer Society uses a teaching tool called a Thingamaboob to patients to understand the importance of screening mammography and finding breast cancer early. The smallest bead on the Thingamaboob shows the size of a cancer detectable with mammography while the two biggest balls demonstrate the size of lumps felt by a patient or her doctor. Since digital mammography can detect lumps and cancer long before it is felt by the patient or her clinician, the OBSP discontinued the nurse examiner role at all OBSP sites several years ago. It is still vital that women perform their own breast self examination regularly as well as regular screening mammograms.


Alexandra Marine & General Hospital officials say it is a committed to improving the breast care for the women of the region.  Its goal with this new and improved service is to provide assessment to women in the region in a timelier manner, and increase the referrals for breast screeningThis can be achieved by educating referring physicians and women on the importance of the early detection of breast cancer through screening mammography.

~ Article submitted by Alexandra Marine and General Hospital, and edited by BNH.

Written by on March 5, 2013 in Goderich - No comments

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