Ray Junemann and chief radiographer Umi McKenzie stress the value of mammograms.
Ray Junemann and chief radiographer Umi McKenzie stress the value of mammograms. Kari Bourne

Screening program saving lives

RAY Junemann considers cancer "just a word - not a sentence".

The 65-year-old Nambour woman was diagnosed with a form of breast cancer in 1993.

It was the same year BreastScreen Queensland opened an office in Nambour.

Mrs Junemann credits a routine mammogram with picking up three pre-cancerous cells in the milk duct of her right breast and saving her life.

"Due to cysts in my left breast, I had been having regular examinations," she said.

"If I had waited until there was a developed lump in my right breast, it might have been too late.

"Women should not be afraid of mammograms.

"If you think having a mammogram is uncomfortable, imagine the sort of pain that comes with breast cancer."

Over the past 18 years the number of Sunshine Coast BreastScreen clients has increased from just over 4000 to nearly 30,000.

The service now has four satellite offices and eight mobile sites in addition to the main office in Nambour.

BreastScreen Sunshine Coast medical director Debbie Pfeiffer said Queensland's screening program had made significant progress for the health of women in the two decades since it was established.

"In that time, the BreastScreen Queensland Program has helped to reduce the death rate from breast cancer by 28%, and increase the five-year survival rate from 74% to 89%," Dr Pfeiffer said.

Chief radiographer Umi McKenzie has seen the service grow significantly since she joined in 1993 as one of the first two radiographers sharing one X-ray machine.

She said improvements in the breast screen procedure had included moving from processed films to highly-advanced digital mammography technology.

"The turnaround time is just seconds now which means patients don't need to be re-called if there needs to be a second scan," she said.