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Breast cancer is New Zealand’s third most common cancer, sadly claiming more than 600 lives every year.

New Zealand is lucky to have a national breast screening programme and fortunately for most people, this is simply a routine health check.  However, if routine screens reveal abnormalities or if a patient exhibits breast cancer symptoms, the journey takes a more critical turn, with patients referred to Wellington Regional Hospital for advanced diagnostic procedures, biopsies, and treatment.  These people are in an extremely vulnerable state, either awaiting a cancer diagnosis, already diagnosed with cancer, or having battled cancer before.

In the last few years, medical imaging technology has undergone remarkable advancements.  Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, Wellington Hospitals Foundation is thrilled to announce its partnership with Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Capital, Coast, and Hutt Valley District to fund a hi-tech digital 3D Mammogram. 

Pictured:  Jasmine Redman (Co-Unit charge Mammography), Bill Day, Chair WHF, Tim McElroy, Radiology Manager

Bill Day, Chair of the Foundation said, “Through the unwavering support of our community and our commitment to supporting our hospitals to keep pace with cutting-edge medical technology, we are advancing the fight against breast cancer.  It is a privilege to witness how our partnerships are transforming the landscape of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, offering new hope to those in need.”

Unlike conventional mammography machines, the 3D Mammogram is equipped with imaging technology that generates images in 1mm slices.  This significantly lowers the chances of abnormalities being obscured by normal or very dense breast tissue.

The new machine’s other benefit is in Contrast Enhanced Mammography, which involves injecting a dye into a drip and taking hi-definition images, to determine whether an abnormality or lump is more or less likely to be benign or malignant.  

This process significantly reduces the need for patients to undergo lengthy, expensive and often distressing MRI scans, or unnecessary biopsies and surgeries. 

Tim McElroy, Radiology Manager, explained that “Contrast enhanced mammography is a relatively new technology for New Zealand so we look forward to being able to offer this service to eligible patients in the near future. We will also have the ability to do contrast enhanced biopsies using the new machine, making us the only site in New Zealand with this capability!”

The machine’s ergonomic design also prioritises the well-being of both radiology staff and patients, and with welcome renovations to the room, the examination experience is now much more comfortable and less stressful.

Wellington Regional Hospital’s Mammography Service is a lifeline for patients in the ongoing battle against breast cancer.  Having access to this new technology will deliver substantial benefits for breast cancer patients across central Aoteaora/New Zealand, set new standards for diagnosis and treatment and most importantly offer a brighter, healthier future for our community.

“The entire breast imaging service at Wellington Hospital is grateful beyond words because of the generous donation that has made this new machine a reality for us. Our staff are so excited every time they get to work on the new machine and we are so thrilled to continue to provide an excellent service to our patients now with the latest in breast imaging technology!” – Dr Sarah Sparks (Subspecialist Breast Radiologist), Jasmine Redman (Co-Unit charge Mammography) & Stephanie Lammas (Co-Unit charge Mammography)