By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
HOSPITAL administrator Sharon Williams has confirmed the Mammography Unit at the Rand Memorial Hospital is now back up and running.
For the past three years, there have been no screenings for breast cancer at the hospital due to Hurricane Dorian and the Covid pandemic.
This resulted in a significant decline in the screening rate in Grand Bahama, where breast cancer is prevalent.
Yesterday, administrator Williams said the unit is in operation and that the service is available by appointment.
“Yes, I am happy to announce that it is back up and running and all the patients with requisite from their physician will need to call radiology for an appointment.
“They see patients by appointment, it’s not a walk-in service, they have to make it (the appointment) with the radiologist,” she said.
Ms Williams explained the suspension in screening at the Rand was due to damage to the mammograph machine as a result of Dorian.
Additionally, she stated travel restrictions during the pandemic also contributed to further downtime in terms of getting persons in to repair the unit.
Currently, there are three mammography machines on the island - one at the Rand, and one each at two of the private clinics on the island.
Nikeia Watson, a registered mammographer and radiographer, said only two mammography machines are working and the public depends heavily on the services at the Rand.
She expressed concerns over the suspension of mammography services at the Rand.
She said that every time the island gets hit by a hurricane, the service is suspended and paused for a length of time with no update of when it would resume, causing a drop each time in the screening rate.
The screening rate in Grand Bahama is estimated to be around 18 percent.
That rate was determined using statistics from the 2010 Census, and not the 2020 Census as incorrectly reported previously. Half of the 50,000 people in Grand Bahama were women, and 11,000 of those women were within the screening age.
Ms Watson, a former public health employee, indicated that the benchmark for screening conducted at the Rand in the year 2000 was roughly 2,000 women.
She noted that since Frances and Jeanne, in 2004, the number of screenings had declined, and during other hurricanes that followed, there was a further decline each time.
“It dropped every year after a hurricane, and the issue is the length of time in which the service is paused, and when they resume the service.
“We had no service in 2019, 2020, and 2021, said Ms Watson. We are now 10 weeks before breast cancer awareness month, we need to hear something from them about the unit.
“We need a road map for mammography services, we need updates. It’s been three years going on four,” she stated.
“We have a large cancer rate. What about those patients who have had cancer treatment and need surveillance?” she asked.
Ms Watson is the founder of Mammogram Access Program, which is a non-profit foundation that assists women with accessing screening for breast cancer in the northern Bahamas.
The organisation recently screened a total of 100 women. The ultimate goal is to screen 2000 women which will restore the screening rate to pre-hurricane Frances and Jeanne levels.
MAP is currently fundraising to acquire a mammography machine to play a more active role in screening.