Ohio State Mobile Mammography Units Taking Top Tech to Underserved Areas
Carolyn Swank had her last mammogram about a year and a half ago. “I’m still paying off the bill for it,” she says.
On a recent Saturday, Swank, who doesn’t have health insurance, traveled to Circleville, Ohio, where one of two OSUCCC – James Mobile Mammography Units was set up in the parking lot. Swank qualified for a no-cost screening with The James team and says her mother and grandmother were each diagnosed with breast cancer, which increases her risk. Yearly screenings can detect breast cancer in its earliest stages when it is most treatable.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have this today if it wasn’t for this,” she says.
How It Works
The Mobile Mammography Unit arrived in Circleville an hour before the first appointment. “We’ll have a designated parking space, the flatter the better,” mammography technologist Emily Mongaraz said during the drive. “We have an automatic-leveling system; we push a button and legs come down and level it out.”
Once the unit was ready to go, The James team started performing procedures using the latest mammography technology.
“The mammography machines in each of the units are 3D. The one on this unit is named Hope and the other is Scarlet,” said Joan Schultz, the mammography technologist who screened patients in Circleville.
Schultz – known by her colleagues as “Joan, the Queen of the Mobile Unit,” due to her expertise, according to Mongraraz – has been screening women for breast cancer for about 30 years. “We used film – actual film that had to be developed,” she says of the technology of the day. “Then we went to digital and now we have 3D digital, which takes a continuous series of layered, detailed pictures of the breast and is able to better see through dense and fibrous breast tissue."
Once the screening event commenced, patients arrived every 15 minutes, each receiving help preparing for the procedures from The James team, who shared information and provided dressing gowns and wipes to remove brands of deodorant that contain aluminum that may result in false positives.
“Some of the women we see have never had a mammogram before and are nervous,” says Schultz, who calmed and reassured patients during the procedures, explaining each step of the process, which includes a series of images from four different angles. Those images are then sent to an OSUCCC – James breast imaging radiologist, who reads them and sends them to the patients and their primary care and/or their obstetrics and gynecology physicians within a few days.
Mammograms save lives, but not everyone has the same opportunity for a yearly screening.
“We can link women without health insurance to a low-cost or no-cost benefit,” says Megan Griffith, a community health worker in the OSUCCC – James Center for Cancer Health Equity. “We can also link women to a primary care physician convenient to them if they don’t already have one.”
The James team also helps overcome language barriers with Spanish, Somali, Nepali, Arabic and Mandarin among the languages spoken by the units’ crews.
“We focus a lot on zip codes around the state where the screening rates are lower,” Griffith says. “We try and eliminate the barriers that prevent women from getting mammograms – language, finances and even transportation. We have a grant that can get some women to and from a screening.”
Spreading the Word
“I plan on telling a lot of women – everyone – about this,” says Caryn Koch-Esterline who attended the Circleville event and is also currently without health insurance.
“At first, I brushed off the idea of coming here. I knew I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t think I’d qualify for the grant,” she says.
Eventually, though, she called Griffith and discovered that she did qualify for the grant and could receive a no-cost screening.
“Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to afford this for at least another year. This is so fantastic,” says Koch-Esterline, whose feelings were echoed by The James crew.
“It’s a privilege to help these women, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have access to this important screening,” Schultz said.
“Working for [the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center] was the dream job for me once I decided to go into mammography screening,” added Mongraraz. “This is the place I’d want my own mother to come to.”
To learn more about The James Mobile Mammography Units, or to schedule a mammogram, call 800-240-4477 or visit www.jamesline.com. To find out if you qualify for a grant to defray part or all of the cost of a mammogram, contact Megan Griffith at 614-293-6924.