Mobile breast cancer screening to be back on the road soon, CancerCare says

After roughly two months on hold, CancerCare Manitoba expects to have its mobile breast screening program back in service by the end of the month.

Two vans, equipped with mammography machines, were taken off the road in December due to mechanical issues

CancerCare Manitoba's mobile breast screening vans are expected to be back in service by the end of the month. (CancerCare Manitoba)

After roughly two months on hold, CancerCare Manitoba expects to have its mobile breast screening program back in service by the end of the month.

Two custom vans, equipped with mammography machines, were taken off the road in December due to mechanical issues. The vans serve people in 90 Manitoba communities and the program is aimed at women who have no symptoms or breast issues as a preventative tool for early cancer detection. 

Dr. Donna Turner, the provincial director of population oncology for CancerCare Manitoba, said maintenance is nearing completion.

"This was not a programmatic issue or issue with the mammogram machines themselves," Turner said. "We were never in danger of offering an unsafe service but we just knew that we just had to, at some point, take a pause on the vehicles."

CBC News obtained the work order for maintenance on the vans through a Freedom of Information Request.

Complicated to fix

Van one had a host off issues including a broken wheelchair lift, a leaking sink and issues with lighting, temperature control and air vents. On Sept. 27, on the way back to Winnipeg from Swan River, operators reported lights came on after they "suddenly [pressed] the brake." 

They then reported having trouble with the van's gas pedal and transmission. 

The second van listed fewer problems — a broken radio and speaker system and leaking sink — but was pulled off the road at the same time because it was starting to show signs of similar wear to van one, Turner said. 

Turner said the repair work is taking time because the vans are custom-built.

"The specifications are complicated because these are a clinic on wheels and so there's a whole lot of stuff that we have to look at in terms of safety," she said. 

As a result, roughly 5,000 mobile breast screening appointments had to be cancelled across the province. Turner said all women were offered appointments at one of CancerCare's fixed sites in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson and Boundary Trails. 

Program to resume

Turner said anytime women have concerns about their breast health they should see a physician right away. And while early cancer detection is key she said the delay in the mobile screening service should not have an impact patient health.

"The difference of a couple of months in the case of breast cancer in somebody who does not have any symptoms, is unlikely in that we're actually going to be in a position where were influencing someone's outcome," she said. "You're not going to go from stage one to stage four in two months."

CancerCare is not beginning to book new appointments until the vans undergo test runs and are fully operational, but she expects the program to resume at the end of February.