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- 08 April 2008

BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme has become the first national screening service provider worldwide to offer a fully digital mammography service. The digital service was officially launched today by the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D. at a BreastCheck mobile digital screening unit in Leopardstown.

The decision to transfer to full digital mammography was taken by the National Breast Screening Board* following a successful pilot programme that demonstrated significant improvements in diagnostic accuracy, particularly for women with denser breast tissue.

Officially launching the digital mammography service, Minister Mary Harney, T.D. said: "I commend the Board and management of the National Cancer Screening Service for their foresight in providing digital mammography in BreastCheck units throughout the country. I am pleased to say to all women who present for breast screening that this digital system results in improved diagnostic accuracy with improved clinical image, quality and reliability. Primarily because of the improved image quality there will also be improved productivity and efficiency within the organisation, as there is no longer a need for processing of x-ray films".

"Today's launch shows that Ireland can lead the way in the delivery of quality assured screening programmes. Ireland, as the first country to introduce a fully digital mammography service, is now a benchmark for countries internationally".

Further commenting Tony O'Brien, CEO of the National Cancer Screening Service said that: "BreastCheck introduced digital mammography on a trial basis in 2005 within its units at Merrion and Eccles Street. Based on the success of this pilot, we have transferred the entire BreastCheck screening operation to digital mammography, with effect from today. BreastCheck is committed to ensuring the service it provides is of the highest quality, based on international best practice and with the transfer to a fully digital service, Ireland has become the world leader in the provision of a quality assured national screening service".

On an operational level, the introduction of digital mammography has improved productivity and efficiency within the organisation, primarily as a result of improved image quality and the digital format of x-rays means there is no longer a requirement to process and manage x-ray films. The discontinued use of film processing and associated chemicals has also resulted in health and safety and environmental benefits.

During the transition stage, disruption to the provision of ongoing BreastCheck screening was avoided with the installation of replacement digital machinery on a phased basis at existing static units, while screening at BreastCheck's new Southern and Western units began in December 2007 with a fully digital offering.

To ensure digital mammography reached the high level, quality assured standards that BreastCheck operates within, new QA processes and measurements were introduced and implemented across the organisation. Staff retraining has been ongoing as equipment is replaced and processes for digital screening are developed.

New mobile screening units were required to accommodate the transfer and facilitate the environmental stability necessary for digital mammography screening. Older mobile units had reached or were nearing their projected lifetime for replacement and were traded-in for the newer models required.

As part of the transition, a new PACS (picture archive and communication system) was developed and extended to enable image management across the entire enterprise. During the process of transferring to digital mammography, BreastCheck replaced all existing conventional x-ray units with digital mammography machinery.

*The decision to transfer to digital mammography was made by the Board of the National Breast Screening Programme (NBSP). On establishment of the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) in January 2007, the Board of the NBSP was dissolved and governance of BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme was transferred to the Board of the NCSS.

 For more information contact:
Clare Manning / Amy Pearson, National Cancer Screening Service
Tel: 01 865 9339 / 01 865 9329 / 086 606 2774 (Clare)


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