Tonga Commissions First Mammogram Screening Machine

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Breast cancer is number one cancer in Tonga

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 10, 2014) – Tonga’s first mammogram machine was commissioned today October 10 at Vaiola Hospital, and will help the Radiology Unit to detect breast cancer early.

The Australian High Commissioner HE Brett Aldam opened a newly renovated pink mammography room and CR services as part of the Pink October breast cancer awareness month.

Dr ‘Ana ‘Akau’ola, a radiology specialist, said the event celebrated a change over from conventional radiography to computerized radiography.

"This is a very important milestone for Tonga radiology and the addition of these two services means that the radiology in Tonga is now a 21st century practice and one to be proud of."

She said the mammography services are needed as breast cancer is the number one cancer in Tonga. Statistics showed in 2013 there were 30 newly diagnosed breast cancer cases in Tonga, doubling the incidence for any other kind of cancer diagnosed in the same year.

"Mammography is the single most important tool used in medicine to change breast cancer outcome. It will not affect the incidence of breast cancer, in fact we may find the incidence going up initially as we will be catching more cancers, although hopefully most will be in the early stages. This is well before one feels any lumps in the breast, and this earlier detection means earlier treatment and better chance of cure and survival."

She said having mammography available will not serve any purpose if the women of Tonga do not use the service.

"It is therefore my plea to the women of Tonga, to please come forward and use the service when it is up and running."

Mammograms produce a black and white x-ray picture of the breast tissue. When a woman has a mammogram, her breast is briefly compressed or squeezed between two plates attached to the mammogram machine—an adjustable plastic plate (on top) and a fixed x-ray plate or digital detector (on the bottom) that makes the image.

Awareness

Mr Aldam said this was a significant step forward for the Radiology Unit in Tonga and commended the joint hard work and dedication by all those involved. The Australian Government through its aid program is delighted to continue supporting Tonga’s health sector, he said.

Meanwhile, Christine ‘Uta’atu the treasurer of the Tonga Breast Cancer Inc., said they were first established in 2007 because they wanted to help raise awareness of the disease and advocate for women to come forward and receive proper medical treatment.

"It’s now eight-years since then and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. We are happy to have contributed, even if it’s in a small way, to the mammography machine. Our increasing awareness of the disease and the Health Department’s commitment to combat it and other non-communicable diseases will hopefully save lives."

The equipment was donated by Lake Imaging of Ballarat, the fourth largest private radiology group in Australia, through the Tonga Health Sector Support Project funded by the Australian Government. Chris Proctor of Lake Imaging was in Tonga for the presentation. The Breast Cancer Society renovated and furnished the new unit.

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