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New diagnostic tool to speed up detection of breast cancer

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The province has added a new diagnostic tool that will speed up the detection of certain types of breast cancer by as much as five weeks.

Unveiled at a press conference this morning, the new $125,000 machine will allow local physicians to avoid sending away samples to Ontario for further testing once a cancer diagnosis is made. It means swifter treatment for some of the most virulent forms of breast cancer.

"This is a game-changer," Health Minister Theresa Oswald told reporters at the Diagnostic Services of Manitoba laboratory at St. Boniface General Hospital.

At the same time, the province is converting all its analog mammography machines to digital technology to speed up breast cancer screening and allow for better information sharing among experts. An estimated cost was not immediately available for the conversion process, which will replace traditional film images that, in some cases, would need to be shipped to a radiologist for assessment and then reported to the patient’s physician.

The digital technology will ensure the new digital mammograms can be viewed and analysed by health-care providers across the province. The first digital machines are expected to be in place this year.

About 90,000 Manitobans have a mammogram every year. There are currently 18 analog machines at 10 sites plus two mobile devices.

Today’s announcement is part of a broader $40-million government strategy, initially announced in June 2011, to shorten the wait time from suspicion of cancer to treatment to under 60 days.

Each year, more than 6,100 Manitobans are diagnosed with cancer, while up to 10 times that number are suspected of having cancer and undergo testing before it’s ruled out.

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