Hi-tech breast cancer weapon

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breast cancerCUTTING-edge technology to improve breast cancer detection rates by 30 per cent will be rolled out across the state under a package announced yesterday.

The $26 million hi-tech breast screening process will boost cancer discovery rates by introducing digital intelligence to replace standard X-ray films.

The 21st-century system is particularly useful for picking up breast cancers in younger women, whose breast tissue is usually too dense to be filmed accurately by the old machines.

Breast cancer expert Dr Wendy Vincent said the new equipment would provide instant images for both patient and doctor and would be invaluable in regional NSW.

"Previously we had to wait to develop the films, but the digital technology is instantaneous," she said.

"The images can be stored and transported electronically (so) this is of particular advantage to women in rural areas."

A landmark 2005 study of 50,000 women in the US published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the modern mammography machines picked up between 15 and 28 per cent more breast cancers in women younger than 50, those who had not yet gone through menopause and those with dense breasts.

Dr Vincent said the retro machines worked on film imagery, so if a specialist needed to zoom in on an image the patient was asked to come back in for another screen.

With computerised technology an image can zoom in from the original shot, cutting down on radiation exposure and saving time for doctor and patient.

"They will bring our best surgeons to the bedside of women in the state's most isolated rural outposts – all within a click of a mouse," Premier Morris Iemma said yesterday when announcing the plan.

The upgrade was part of an election announcement by Mr Iemma, who said a Labor Government would also establish a Women's Cancer Health Register to send out SMS and email reminders to patients.

A one-stop screening shop was announced for both healthy women and symptomatic and breast cancer patients.

The free screening system will now be extended to high-risk women between 30 and 40 who are genetically predisposed to breast cancer.

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