Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Digital mammography delayed

Last province in nation to start making switch to latest technology

  • Print

A government initiative to improve breast cancer detection by converting analog mammography machines to digital technology has been delayed by more than a year.

Manitoba is the last province in the country to introduce the newer technology. Some provinces have fully converted to digital mammography, while others have a combination of old and new.

The province had planned to begin phasing in the new machines last year -- it now has 20 analog mammography machines, including two mobile ones.

Now it says the first digital machines won't be in place until a year from now, and a full conversion won't take place for two years.

"It is taking longer than we anticipated for those first digital machines to be put in. We thought it would be done by last year. I'm disappointed, frankly, that that didn't happen," Health Minister Erin Selby said.

Selby blamed IT issues for the delay.

"What I've been told is the different clinics have different programs and that all of those computers need to be able to talk to each other," she said.

Three years ago, a study showed Manitoba had the highest breast cancer mortality rate in Canada along with Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, Progressive Conservative health critic Myrna Driedger said.

"That in itself should be good motivation for this government to not drag its heels on (improving its mammography technology)," she said.

On its website, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation encourages women to be screened using digital mammography where possible. "Digital mammography is gradually replacing screen-film mammography in Canada. This is because it is better at detecting breast cancer in women in their 40s, women 50-plus who have not gone through menopause and women with clinically diagnosed dense breasts," the foundation says.

Digital mammography is also seen as superior for image storage. And because images can be shared electronically, the technology allows medical professionals to easily obtain advice on an image from colleagues.

Driedger said there's no reason Manitoba should be the only province in Canada not to have digital mammography. She said the Tories have been asking the government to introduce the technology for seven years.

"If other provinces can do it, why do we have to be dead last in Canada to provide women with the best level of early detection that there is?" she said.

"Newfoundland has 14 (digital mammography machines). Why can't Manitoba have one?"

Selby said while she's disappointed at how long the conversion process is taking, it's important the government gets it right.

"We're talking about breast cancer. We can't have mistakes. It needs to be perfect. It needs to be working without fault," she said of a new digital system.

The minister said women should rest assured they can still get their screening done. She said Manitoba has the quickest turnaround in the country for mammogram results.

Benefits of mammography

  • Earlier detection of early-stage breast cancers: If breast cancers are detected when they are small and have not spread, most patients can be treated successfully.
  • Better treatment options: If results indicate early-stage breast cancer, in most cases, this leads to more treatment options with less invasive forms of treatment (i.e. lumpectomy rather than mastectomy).
  • Reduced death and disability from breast cancer: In most cases, the earlier detection and timely treatment of breast cancer reduces the risk of death or long-term disability.

Limitations of mammography

  • Some test results show signs of cancer that are ruled out when further testing is done (this is called a false positive). About one in 10 women may be called back for more testing.
  • Other test results miss breast cancer (this is called a false negative). These mammograms appear normal even though breast cancer is present. Screening mammograms miss one in nine breast cancers. This type of screening result may lead to a false sense of security and a delay in diagnosis and treatment.
  • Some breast cancers that are found by mammography would never become a health problem in the woman's lifetime (i.e. some cancers grow very slowly).

Mammography cannot tell which cancers will not threaten the woman's health from those that will be harmful and must be treated. So all signs of breast cancer are treated as harmful. This limitation is known as over-diagnosis.

-- source: Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2014 A4


Updated on Monday, April 28, 2014 at 6:55 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds link, formats sidebars

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


I Dream of Diesel at Rachel Brown Theatre scene preview

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(  Standup photo)-    A butterfly looks for nector on a lily Tuesday afternoon in Wolseley-JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- June 22, 2010
  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google