Breast scan goes outback

Gail Raw, state manager of cancer screening and control services in Tasmania, and her colleagues, are empowering the women of outback Australia by improving the overall breast screening process by using the latest broadband technology.

Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in Australia with more than 12,000 women diagnosed with the disease every year. Developing a more efficient service for diagnosing breast cancer is at the core of what BreastScreen Australia is doing when taking healthcare to rural areas, or "the bush."

With the aim to reduce deaths from breast cancer through early detection and by providing an online real-time process, the BreastScreen Rural Broadband Digital Mammography Project is enhancing the level of service and capacity of breast screens to service women in rural areas in the state of Tasmania. The screens are carried out in screening vans with digital equipment which tour remote areas, eliminating the need for long-distance travel.

"The equipment has opened up so many possibilities for these women, who have previously had to travel great distances to receive the screening and then wait for more than two weeks for a response," Gail says.

Australian operator Telstra is supporting the project, with an integrated mobile-broadband solution that employs Ericsson's end-to-end HSPA/WCDMA solution. The fixed and wireless broadband networks installed in the screening service vans enable large image files of breast screens (30MB-50MB) to be sent digitally from screening points to assessment centers reducing the risk of damaged or lost images when compared with physical x-rays and improving productivity.

Wireless broadband allows image transfer from the mobile service center, overcoming the logistical problems of installing temporary fixed-broadband services.

Being connected this way reduces the risks and inefficiencies associated with the conventional analog x-ray film-based screening system. The breast screen images can now be captured digitally, integrated with an electronic patient record, sent to a BreastScreen assessment center and stored electronically in a picture archiving communication system by using Telstra's Next G mobile broadband network.