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DBCC Mammography Van Reaches Underserved

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The Women’s Mobile Health Screening van is all about removing barriers to detection, whether that barrier is a lack of insurance, awareness, time or all three. Back on the road since July 2010 after a 17-month hiatus needed for equipment upgrades, the van is now reaching more than 750 women annually, and many of them would not be getting mammograms if not for the mobile service.

“The van is so very important. We get right out there all over the state. We’ve built up a trust with health centers, churches and communities,” says Melany Sammons, the van’s program manager.

The van, which is operated by DBCC through a contract with the state Division of Public Health’s Screening for Life program, targets the uninsured and underinsured, but it doesn’t turn away any woman. “We go to businesses, too, where we’re finding that some of the women have gone five to 10 years without a mammogram. They’ve got full-time jobs, they’re raising kids and taking care of so many other people. They don’t put themselves first,” Sammons says.

One of the van’s newer partnerships is with Perdue. Fourteen women were screened on a one-day visit to the company’s Milford site in October 2011, including several who required further testing. Perdue educates women about the value of breast self-examinations through its own health-care system, and a visit from the mammography van was a natural supplement to that education.

“Having the mobile unit on-site gives our associates convenient access to mammography screening and they can do this without losing time away from work,” says Roger Merrill, M.D., medical officer at Perdue. The company gave a grant to DBCC in support of the van.

DBCC’s Sonia “Sunny” Villafañe has made extensive outreach efforts to the state’s Spanish-speaking population to increase awareness of breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment. As a result, the van experienced a 9 percent increase in one year in the number of Hispanic women screened.

The van is a retrofitted RV the size of a Greyhound bus. It is outfitted with chairs and a changing area and has a private feeling far from the typical clinic setting. Most importantly, it has a state-of-the-art Hologic Selenia digital mammography machine.

“It’s the best equipment out there,” says radiologist Jacqueline Napoletano, M.D., head of the mammography mobile unit advisory board. Digital mammography first came into use five years ago and was added to the van two years ago. “It has numerous advantages over the older film mammography method, including sharper images with fewer artifacts like dust and chemicals that can affect the picture quality,” Napoletano says. It also has an improved visualization of cancers, especially in premenopausal and perimenopausal women, who tend to have denser breast tissue that is harder to read. The mammograms are performed and processed by Beebe Medical Imaging.

To find out more, contact DBCC’s Melany Sammons at 672-6435, or msammons@debreastcancer.org.

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