New mammogram facility at Spire Cambridge Lea.

A new mammogram facility has opened at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital, which has halved waiting times for patients.

Staff at the private hospital in Impington have already been feeling the benefits of the new equipment. They are one of the first in the country to have new Prime Technology which reduces the radiation dosage in the majority of patients by 30 per cent.

Mammography is a type of scanning that uses low dose X-rays to examine the breast. It is used to help identify breast cancer in its early stages as it can find cancers that are too small to feel.

Alan Rout, diagnostic imaging manager, says that with the new £115,000 machine, patients will not have to wait for their results.

"We had an older analogue system before that worked in Computed Radiography (CR) imaging," he said. "We've now upgraded with a digital mammogram machine which means we can see the image straight away after you've taken them. It's halved the time patients are spending with us.

"One major impact of this machine is that for some ladies we can reduce the radiation dose by up to 30 per cent, which is fantastic.

"The team have been really ecstatic since it's been put in. It's cut their work time as well."

Last year the team saw about 256 patients in the mammography unit, which Mr Rout said could increase with this new piece of equipment.

"Having more up to date equipment allows us to have a better quality of imaging for the patients that come through," he said.

"We're hoping to see more patients. We've just had a new breast consultant come on board so now we have three. The workload should go up at the same time."

Radiographer Sam Bean said the machine shows a better quality of image - and means patients do not have the anxious wait while the images are being processed.

"They are a lot more defined and detailed," she said. "Being a radiographer it's more about the efficiency of getting the image down to the radiologist.

"It's a lot quicker - it takes half the time - we're cutting out a lot of the work that we would be doing in the processing. It involved changing rooms and taking the patient to sit in that room and wait while they are processing the images. They don't have that anxiety of coming back into the room now. We deal with it there and then."

Radiologist Fleur Kilburn-Toppin said: "The quality of the images are better than previously which allows us to hopefully detect any abnormalities better, such as cancers, with our new machine. We've been waiting for it for a while, we're delighted that we have it.

"It's a great benefit to the mammography unit at Spire."

Amit Agrawal, consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon, added: "Digital mammogram is the logical way forward in the 'smart technology' era. It is better in younger denser breasts. Image processing and storing is faster, less cumbersome and uses less office space (as the good old X-ray plates are relegated to posterity).

"Digital mammogram should not only add value to diagnostics but also therapeutics for women. It aids accuracy of performing lumpectomy (breast-conserving surgery) on cancers that are too small feel. Digital images also help planning extent of surgery with greater accuracy. This is a significant step in the right direction for breast service at the Spire."

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