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FIRST IN THE REGION: Hospital rolls out new breast cancer screening technology

FIRST IN THE REGION: Hospital rolls out new breast cancer screening technology

The breast screening team at Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Image: LDRS

Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital is the first in the region to use new technology which gives a quicker and less invasive way to detect breast cancer.

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust has started using a special type of mammogram, called Contrast-enhanced spectral mammography (CESM)  to improve diagnosis during breast screening.

A solution is injected into the patient’s vein minutes before the mammogram is taken, and special software is then used to detect abnormal areas that a standard mammogram is unable to pick up.

Dr Simon Lowes, consultant radiologist said CESM is less expensive, significantly quicker and less invasive for patients, as it significantly reduces the need for MRI scans of the breast, which carry challenges of claustrophobia for patients.

He said: “We started using it three or four weeks ago and it has already had an impact on the diagnostic proces, it gives us more information, we hope it will replace MRI.

“This takes less than 10 minutes and MRI will take up to 30 minutes and is not pleasant at all.

“Claustrophobia is a massive issue for MRI and implantable devices like pace makers aren’t MRI compatable.

“MRI is expensive, the trust has one MRI scanner in Gateshead, CESM is much quicker and cheaper.

“The thing about MRI is I have to put in request which might take a week or longer, we are very quick but it does push us to the limit.

“With CESM we can pop them in the next room, give them the dye and have it done in one visit.”

Dr Lowes said that MRI scans will always be available for patients that need it.

Joanne Brand, lead radiographer for breast screening at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, added: “I am very proud of the breast screening department over the past year as we have faced many challenges during the pandemic. Despite this, we are thrilled to be able to introduce this new technology that will be of huge benefit to our breast screening patients, and ultimately make their experience with us more comfortable and less invasive while providing more timely and accurate scan results.

“We are proud to have been able to forge ahead with new innovations, service improvements and continue to provide an excellent breast screening service to Gateshead and the surrounding regions.

“Some ladies are claustrophobic and the breast MRI is quite uncomfortable and you’re in there for a long time, the new procedure is a lot quicker.

“It’s a huge benefit to the population of ladies in Gateshead that we’re offering this. ”


Words: Herbert Soden, Local Democracy Reporter

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