Mammograms use low-energy x-rays to screen for symptoms of breast cancer. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A rising number of women undergoing mammograms have been expressing displeasure with male technicians conducting the checks at a number of health care facilities. Many women complained that they found the experience extremely disconcerting and embarrassing. The Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) strongly discourages male staff from conducting mammograms at hospitals.

A source from HAAD said the regulator was working on a law to tackle such lapses.

“I visited a private hospital in the capital recently, and was shocked to find that my mammogram was scheduled to take place with a male technician,” a Lebanese resident in the capital told Gulf News.

“The whole procedure was disturbing and I only went through with it because my physician had recommended an immediate mammogram,” she added.

Mammograms use low-energy x-rays to screen for symptoms of breast cancer, a disease with the second highest mortality rate among women in the emirate of Abu Dhabi after cardiovascular disease. In 2010, 190 new cases of the disease were diagnosed.

H.H., a 24-year-old accounts executive, narrated a similar experience when she underwent tests at another medical facility last year.

“I had asked for an appointment with a female technologist at a private hospital, but was told there would be a delay of a few months. Since I was worried and wanted to check that there was no risk from a cyst that had been diagnosed, I agreed to a male technician doing the screening. It was very, very difficult,” H.H. said.

When asked why she didn’t seek an appointment at another hospital, H.H. said she had tried to get a consultation elsewhere but couldn’t get any immediate appointments at the time.

Dr Jalaa Taher, head of cancer control and prevention at the HAAD, told Gulf News that cultural sensitivities in the UAE made the whole process extremely distressing for women, especially since mammograms require intensive assessments for over ten minutes.

“Our regular audits at hospitals have revealed at least one male mammography technologist in the capital, and we have issued a warning to the concerned private hospital. And in the new edition of the HAAD standards for breast cancer screening and diagnosis, we will prohibit male technicians from performing mammograms,” she added.

The new standards are due to be released by the end of the year, after which health care facilities will be given up to a year to replace all male staff conducting mammograms with qualified female professionals.

In the meantime, women can seek mammograms at 18 health care facilities offering them in the emirate, Dr Jalaa said. “We also know that each centre has at least one or more female mammography technicians,” she added.

The official also encouraged women to contact the HAAD if they came across men performing mammograms. “If notified, we will conduct a check and ask the facility to replace the male technician at the earliest,” Dr Jalaa said.