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Mammography unit opens in Salmon Arm hospital

Screening and diagnostic mammograms now available to local patients for the first time

Access to mammography screening and testing is now closer to home for Shuswap residents.

The new mammography unit opened at the Shuswap Lake General Hospital in Salmon Arm on Wednesday, Oct. 4, with an Indigenous welcome and words of gratitude for the life-saving service from organizers and patients alike.

The new site provides free screening mammograms for eligible people, said Interior Health in a media release, and will offer diagnostic mammograms for those with the need for further testing, the first time the hospital has been able to offer both services in-house.

Edna and Laureen Felix smudged the unit room in private and then blessed the space, speaking about cancer affecting everyone despite their differences and asking for positivity to surround the unit.

Several groups were welcomed to the hospital to view the mammography machine room, complete with a calming mural, on Wednesday. First were members of the Shuswap Lake Healthcare Auxiliary and volunteers, followed by breast cancer survivors and Friends Abreast dragon boat team members, who also helped raise money.

Until now, screening mammograms for Shuswap residents have been provided through BC Cancer’s mobile bus, which would do over 1,500 tests annually. This fall, these services will be conducted in the dedicated unit close to home for Shuswap residents, in the Salmon Arm hospital.

Units across Interior Health can now also share images with Salmon Arm, which means patients can have access to results of tests that were done at other locations more easily and share results from here quickly.

“The new mammography unit means patients can access screening and diagnostic services at Shuswap Lake General Hospital and eliminates the need to travel to other communities like Kamloops or Vernon for this service. This is a significant step in the ongoing effort to improve access to rural health care,” said Susan Brown, Interior Health president and CEO.

“It’s pretty huge for Salmon Arm,” said Darren Lorenz, Shuswap Hospital Foundation president. “It’s essentially a new service. They can do everything here now, and that’s the big value.”

Holly Cowan, constituency assistant for Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, said on behalf of Kyllo that he is excited about the unit, as he has a wife and four daughters and likely granddaughters in the future that will be in the position for a mammogram and he is grateful it will be local without having to travel. She added her own sister is a breast cancer survivor so she is grateful for the local service.

“This community does so well in fundraising and support,” said Cowan.

As early detection is the key to fighting breast cancer, the new unit allows mammograms to become part of patients’ regular routines much more easily.

Screening mammograms will be offered beginning Nov. 6, with eligible patients being able to book appointments by calling 1-800-663-9203. The goal is to reduce community and regional wait lists.

The mammography unit cost $2.3 million and was a collaborative effort between the Shuswap Hospital Foundation, North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap Regional Hospital District, Interior Health and the BC Cancer/ Provincial Health Services Authority, reads the release.

Part of the Shuswap Hospital Foundation’s fundraising campaign was also raising money for a new CT scanner that cost $2.1 million, replacing the old one from 2010. The new machine has been in operation since Nov. 2021.

In total, the Shuswap Hospital Foundation has contributed $3.3 million and the regional hospital district contributed $1.1 million to these two projects.

Read more: Fundraiser will help create new mammography unit at Shuswap Lake General Hospital

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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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