BC Cancer, a part of the Provincial Health Services, will be visiting Merritt in the form of a van. From March 29 until April 4, 2023, a mobile screening unit will be available in the parking lot beside Romeo’s No Frills at 2760 Forksdale Ave. This unit will be providing free cancer screenings for women aged 40 and above. The van visiting Merritt is part of the breast screening program that was started in 1988, however, the first van for this program wasn’t in operation until 1990. 

“We have three mobile screening coaches [that] visit more than 170 rural and remote communities across BC each year, including over 40 Indigenous communities. The vehicles provide state-of-the-art digital screening mammograms, are wheelchair-accessible, and feature a spacious waiting area and comfortable private examination room,” said Rableen Nagra, director of BC Cancer’s breast screening operations. 

“It aims to service all of British Columbia, especially in the rural and remote areas. In addition to the three mobile units we also have 36 permanent buildings across B.C. that also serve the same function.”

The mobile vans make up 10% of all screening mammograms performed in B.C. The mobile vans were introduced as part of an initiative to provide this service to rural and harder to reach communities that might not otherwise have access to a mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that allows for early detection of breast cancer. 

“I think it’s of great importance to reach the more remote communities,” added Nagra. 

“Breast cancer is one of the preventable cancers because we’re able to detect it earlier in advance, of course because of covid it has impacted so many different people in so many different ways and I think it’s now the time to get back to the screening routine and of course with this mobile van program it hopefully allows us to have access to this service in a more rural community.”

Breast cancer is considered preventable because a mammogram can detect the cancer nearly two years sooner than you or your doctor are able to feel it. Whether it’s part of a routine or a first time screening Nagra said the staff will be there to welcome you and provide information to help you make an informed decision. Signs, symptoms and general information about 16 different types of cancers can be found on the BC Cancer’s website. 

“We encourage our staff to be kind, respectful, and understanding to make it a safe space for anyone to visit,” noted Nagra.

“They make sure to explain the procedure so people know what to expect. They also get the space and environment to ask any questions they may have, and of course there is follow up after their screening to make sure if they have any questions they know who to reach out to.”

To access this free service. Nagra said you can call the toll free number, or if you would rather travel to one of the 36 physical sites you can find their direct phone number to avoid the toll free prompts. After the screening, if you provide a family doctor then the scans will be sent to them, but you will also get a copy. This usually takes about three to four weeks, commented Nagra. 

“We don’t need a doctors referral to book a mammogram as long as you are eligible, you just have to call the toll free number and tell us your location and we can book you into one of the 39 sites, it could be in one of the 36 physical sites or it could be in one of the three mobile sites,” said Nagra.  

“It’s recommended for women aged 40 to 74, and of course if they’re above 50 they are welcome to come in for screening. Screening is recommended every one to two years depending on whether or not there were any findings that needed to be discussed.” For more information visit the BC cancer screening website at www.bccancer.bc.ca/screening or call 1-800-663-9203.