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Opinion

455 attend mammogram screening

Thursday 8 September 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Health, National

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455 attend mammogram screening
The Australia and Cook Islands Breast Screening Australia mammogram team: From left, Taleitaki Marshall, Karen Ross, Rebecca Marshall, Dr Jenny O’Sullivan, Janine O’Neill, Dr Fran Jones, Rosa Josefa and Tohoa Cummings. 22090713

Over a period of 10 days 455 women have been screened at the Rarotonga Hospital for the early detection of breast cancer.

The Breast Screening Australia mammogram programme is now in its third week screening a minimum of 45 women a day. The screening programme will continue until September 13.

Te Marae Ora nurse Tohoa Cummings, who has been with the breast screening programme since 2011, said: “Mammograms are successful in the early detection for breast cancer.”

This year marks the 14th visit from the Breast Screening Australia team and last week a new team of five women arrived to continue the month long programme.

Cummings noted the diligence of Dr Fran Jones who is back on Rarotonga for the 14th time to run the mammogram tests.

Dr Jones said: “Breast screenings are very important for women because it is the commonest cause of cancer amongst women.”

“It’s been wonderful to see the huge turnout of women, it’s been absolutely delightful. We know that if breast cancer is found early and its small then we have great outcomes.”

In Australia, breast screening starts from the age of 40 “because that is when the incidents of breast cancer start to rise and increases as the women get older”, explained Dr Jones, adding they were particularly targeting women over 50 and women that have a strong family history of breast cancer for the mammogram tests.

Breast screening tests on the island have been delayed twice due to Covid-19, this time around an overwhelming number of 800 women booked in, pushing the programme to be extended to a month for the first time.

Women from the age of 40 years can book in for a mammogram. Younger women who are experiencing breast pain are asked to see a doctor first for a referral to see the breast physician from the mammogram team.

Dr Jones said: “We like to screen all women that have got that strong family history, we screen them yearly instead of every two years.”

She said such programmes needed the whole team and over the years the Rarotonga and Australia teams have developed a system where they work “so closely together”.

“So much of the preparation and groundwork is done here, the team here is essential and if we didn’t have the same team every time it would be very difficult for us,” said Dr Jones.

“They’re here early before we arrive and work late until 11pm – they’re just absolutely superb.”

Dr Jones also acknowledged the work of the Cook Islands Breast Cancer Foundation saying the organisation has always been proactive in the programme and brought women over from the Pa Enua to be screened.

“They (Cook Islands Breast Cancer Foundation) have really made a difference, they work very hard in raising funds. They have been marvellous and we work so closely with them/ They are part of our team.”

Reflecting on her experience with Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health, Dr Jones, 72, said: “One thing I have seen over the years here that I really like about the Cook Islands is that the standard of health care is so high and the Ministry is so proactive about getting additional health service visits, it makes a huge difference.”

Meanwhile nurse Cummings is asking those who have “forgotten” their mammogram appointment to pop in at the hospital to be screened. The final day is Tuesday, September 13.