The Navy’s mobile mammogram unit will travel to Iwakuni and Sasebo in late March and early April, according to a spokeswoman from U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, where the unit is based.

The trip southwest has come later than usual this year in part because the hospital is down to one technician who is trained to operate the mammography machine, Lt. Cmdr. Denise Hoffman said.

The hospital is interviewing for a second, vacant technician position, but health-care facilities back in the States also are experiencing a shortage of qualified applicants.

Mammography is a tool used to detect breast cancer. Health facilities at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Sasebo Naval Base do not have the machine.

At Sasebo, about 20 people are on the waiting list to be screened, a medical officer told a group of base residents at a town hall meeting last week. She said the machine was originally scheduled to come in February.

Those patients on the waiting list are awaiting preventive screenings, Navy officials said. Patients who need diagnostic screenings — where cancer is suspected or the patient has a past diagnosis — travel to Yokosuka without waiting, the officials said.

The delay this year also was in response to fear of driving the large vehicle through Japan during bad weather, Hoffman said. But she said the machine and technician are definitely scheduled to travel in the coming weeks.

The National Cancer Institute recommends that women 40 and older have mammograms every one to two years. The institute also recommends the screening for women of any age who are at risk of breast cancer.

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