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Breast cancer screening tests go mobile

Women can visit the mobile units in Athabasca, Barrhead and Westlock
Mobile lobby area
Alberta Health Services is offering mammography screening tests to women aged 50-74 across the region. The mobile units will be in Athabasca Jan. 25-29, Barrhead Jan. 30-Feb. 10 and Westlock Feb. 10-21.

WESTLOCK - Alberta Health Services is offering mammography screening tests to women aged 50-74 across the region, the group most at risk for developing breast cancer.

The mobile units will be in Athabasca Jan. 25-29, Barrhead Jan. 30-Feb. 10 and Westlock Feb. 10-21, and the test is free for Alberta residents who have a provincial health care card.

“We generally ask for ladies to call and make an appointment … once they arrive, they’ll be greeted by our staff and volunteers and fill out a short form which asks about their breast cancer history and their risk of breast cancer. That helps us to figure out how often they need to be screened,” explained Harmony McRae, health promotion facilitator with Screen Test.

In a private exam room, a technician will examine women’s breasts with the digital mammography machine. Most women will have four pictures taken, two of each breast.

Results will be delivered in the mail three weeks after the appointment.

“The whole thing can take half an hour up to 45 minutes, but the actual test itself only takes about 10 minutes,” said McRae.

Statistically, 80 per cent of breast cancer cases are found in women aged 50-74. While AHS doesn’t specifically prioritize that age group for these screen tests, health care providers do encourage that target group to get screened every two years until age 75.

“Starting at age 40 in Alberta, women have the option to begin screening. For women 40-49, they do need a referral from their health care provider,” said McRae.

Screen Test clinics first opened in Edmonton and Calgary in 1990. However, women in rural communities weren’t being properly screened and were getting breast cancer diagnoses in later stages when survival rates are not as good.

Three small vans were outfitted as mobile screen test units and covered 18 Albertan communities in 1991. Since then, the program has developed to include 120 rural locations covered by two mobile units.

“About 90 per cent of women are surviving breast cancer, and part of that is the early detection with screening. The other part of that is better treatment of breast cancer,” added McRae.

In each location, the trailer unit will be parked by the local health care building: Athabasca Community Health Services at 3401 48 Ave., Keir Care/Continuing Care Centre at 5336 59 Ave. in Barrhead, and the Westlock Healthcare Centre at 10220 93 St.

Those interested can call 1-800-667-0604 to make an appointment. More information on dates and locations, as well as the Screen Test program, is available at