Reprieve as early breast cancer detection equipment launched 

14Sep 2019
Aisia Rweyemamu
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Reprieve as early breast cancer detection equipment launched 

TANZANIA now stands a better chance of reducing the number of deaths caused by breast cancer—the second killer of women after cervical cancer—following the launch of a modern machine for early detection yesterday. 

The state-of-the-art equipment installed at the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam which will make it possible for women to nip cancer cells in the bud earlier than it was the case before is the first in the entire East African region. 

Speaking during the launch of the Senographe Pristina three dimensional mammography, consultant radiologist Dr Pili Ally said the machine has been procured in line with the government’s strategic plan to improve the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases. 

The machine which cost the hospital USD300, 000 (over 700m/-) is the second in Southern Africa after South Africa, she said.

Designed by a team of female GE Healthcare engineers who used their own insights coupled with feedback from more than 1,000 patients, technologists and radiologists, Senographe Pristina helps to address the fear of discomfort that women face around mammograms. 

Dr. Ally explained that the system offers comfort features for a better patient and technologist experience, including rounded corner instead of sharp edges that used to poke patients’ ribs and armpits.

“Women can relax their muscles during exam, which simplifies positioning, compression and image acquisition,” she explained.

The system uses a low radiation dose to create cross sectional images of the breast and it humanizes the mammography experience by increasing comfort and reducing patient anxiety. The system has a potential to help increase the number of annual screening exams, the consultant noted.

Among advantages of the mammography is that it provide more accurate detection, earlier diagnosis and better detection of dense breast tissue, while inducing less anxiety and proving to be safe and effective.

The expert recommended that women aged 40-44 years should have a choice to start annual breast cancer screening and women above 45 years should get mammogram every year. Additionally, women above 55 should switch to mammogram every two years or continue screening yearly.

Speaking at the launch, Dr. Daisy Majamba, the regional dental officer, said breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after cancer of the cervix and also the second leading cause of cancer mortality among women in Tanzania. Dr. Majamba said the launch of the digital mammography is a milestone in the country's public-private partnerships in the fight against cancer.

Sulaiman Shahabuddin, the regional chief executive officer for Aga Khan Health Services, East Africa said that the radiology department at AKHS has been a pioneer in investing in advanced technologies to enhance diagnostics which play a key role in modern day patient management.

 Mammograms play a key role in the detection of breast cancer, a disease that if caught earlier is more likely to be curable. This ultra-modern unit will further boost efforts of the institution to not only increase awareness with screening campaigns performed every first Saturday of the month, apart from aiding early detection of the disease.

Speaking at the launch, the marketing director of women health at GE Healthcare said the company was proud to partner with AKHS to bring digital mammography services that will help in the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of the disease.

Dr. Ahmed Jusabin, the medical director and senior consultant radiologist at the hospital said that the hospital has announced the provision of free screening service by using the new installed machine on 30 women.  

The machine has the capacity of screening 20 patients per day while the other machine could only screen five patients in one day, he pointed out.