HOULTON, Maine — When women go to a hospital or clinic for a mammogram, most take it for granted that the exam will be conducted using a digital machine.
But a number of rural hospitals and facilities, including Houlton Regional Hospital, still do not have a digital mammography machine. Now, the hospital’s major fundraising arm is taking steps to assure that patients who flock to the facility have access to the faster, more accurate machine.
The Houlton Regional Health Services Foundation kicked off its digital mammography campaign last month to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The foundation raises money that gets put back into the community. In the past few years, foundation grants have helped finance a handicapped-accessible van, a defibrillator for a local school, a new pediatric suite at the hospital and a new nuclear medicine imaging camera.
The foundation conducts fundraisers each year and has raffled off cars and artwork, and held concerts and other community events to help fill its coffers.
Elizabeth Dulin, the foundation’s executive director, said Wednesday that the newest campaign is important to the foundation.
“It is our responsibility to help the hospital as much as we can to secure the equipment it needs to treat patients,” she said. “Breast cancer is an issue that families across the state and nation face every year. It hits very close to home for many people.”
In 2001, the foundation raised money to buy the hospital’s current mammography equipment. Upgrading to digital mammography will cost $200,000. Dr. James Madix, the chief of radiology at HRH, said digital is more sensitive and detects cancer with greater accuracy. It is able to show uniform quality over a range of conditions and breast sizes and is better at penetrating dense tissue. He added that digital machines also make it possible to manipulate images by zooming in or adjusting contrast if there’s a suspected calcification or mass.
“It is also quicker and easier to use,” he said. “Around here, hospitals in Presque Isle, Caribou and Millinocket have it, but we do not. Right now, we see about a dozen patients a day in mammography. I believe digital will attract more patients and keep them closer to home. Our patients will appreciate the greater speed and re-duced hassle as well.”
Sue McLaughlin, the manager of the radiology department, agreed. She said Wednesday that the digital images go right to a computer in the department, so that if there are questions about the image while it is being read, the radiologist can quickly reshoot the picture.
“There will be instant results,” she added. “We don’t have to wait to develop film.”
The foundation has started fundraising for the machine by kicking off its 10th annual diamond ring raffle. The foundation has begun selling tickets for the jewelry. First prize is a 14-karat yellow gold leaf design band and 1.21-carat radiant cut diamond. The retail value is $9,500. Nine other gemstone jewelry prizes will be raffled off as well. The final prize is a 14-karat white gold band with 55 diamonds valued at $8,500. The total value of the prizes is $20,000. Only 1,500 tickets are available for $20 each. The winner will be chosen on Valentine’s Day. Dulin also is seeking grants, donations and planning other fundraisers to garner the $200,000 needed by the end of 2011.
To find information about the project, locations to buy tickets or to purchase tickets online, log on to www.healthservicesfoundation.org or call the foundation office at 521-2503.