Overwhelming agreement on Smithers mammography

Overwhelming agreement on Smithers mammography

Canadian Cancer Society member Debbie Courtliff’s open letter on mammography service in Smithers.

An open letter to Dr. Fourie, medical director of the Northwest and Cormac Hikisch, Bulkley Valley District Hospital administrator:

Dear Sirs,

I am dismayed by the possible closure of our mammography unit at the Smithers hospital. The loss of this service concerns me for several reasons. The hospital mammography unit services women from Burns Lake to Hazelton and Granisle. Many women will be unable to make a trip to Terrace in a single day, requiring a costly overnight stay. For some women this will be a real hardship financially. I am also concerned with the probable increased wait time to get an appointment as the numbers of women using the service in Terrace is going to significantly increase. The mobile unit will only be available in the summer months and only for those women who need screening; it is not suitable for women who need diagnostic imagery.

This is an issue for all women between the ages of 40-75. The BC Cancer Agency recommends screening every two years for all women. For women with a history of breast cancer or a family history of breast cancer, screening is recommended yearly.

In the Bulkley Valley (Hazelton – Houston) that is a lot of screenings. I find it hard to believe Terrace will be able to give timely appointments for those with a concern.

As someone who was chair of the local Cancer Society for five years, and who has been involved with the Cancer Society for the past 15 years, I know that the mobile unit service cannot be used by the many women in the valley who are either breast cancer survivors, those who have suspect lumps, or those with dense breast tissue who need diagnostic imagery. This will require a trip to Terrace each year, sometimes more frequently. They will need to make this trip regardless of the weather and road conditions. I know from my time with the Cancer Society that the number of women in this category in the valley is considerable and a second look at the proposed closure is warranted.

Many women have spoken to me about this issue in my capacity as an active member of the Canadian Cancer Society and overwhelmingly agree that this is not a decision that serves women’s health well.


Debbie Courtliff