Selena Kemper, mammography supervisor at Springfield Regional Imaging Center explains the breast screening process in the MERCY HEALTH 3D mobile mammography vehicle. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF
Photo: Jeff Guerini
Photo: Jeff Guerini

Community Mercy Health Partners offers next generation of health care

If Cari Landers-O’Neal felt any anxiety about getting a mammogram, it didn’t last long after climbing aboard Community Mercy Health Partners’ new mobile mammography unit.

The staff was friendly, and the appointment was convenient and quick. In just minutes, her mammogram inside the mobile unit was complete.

“Once you got inside of it, you really didn’t feel like you were in a traveling vehicle,” said Landers-O’Neal, a nurse with the Champaign Health District who lives in the Northridge neighborhood of Clark County.

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Landers-O’Neal is one of dozens of women who have been screened at events in and around Clark and Champaign counties since the mobile mammography unit was introduced in January. As of the beginning of April, the unit had detected breast cancer in two women, according to Dawn Naill, Komen project director for the Springfield Regional Imaging Center.

The hope is that by increasing the accessibility of breast cancer screenings, more diagnoses will be made, and earlier.

“It’s a big deal to that individual, but it would be a much bigger deal if it wasn’t found,” Naill said.

Cases of breast cancer are higher in Clark County than in both the state of Ohio and the nation. According to 2015 statistics from the Ohio Department of Health, Clark County has about 133 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 121 in the state and 125 throughout the country, Naill said. Champaign County’s number is about the same as that of the state, but both Clark and Champaign counties have a mortality rate that is higher than the state and the nation.

“It’s all full circle. The earlier we can find these issues, the less complications there are going to be,” said Selena Kemper, mammography supervisor at Springfield Regional Medical Center’s imaging center.

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The mammography vehicle is a box truck that is 40 feet long, with a sitting area, two private changing areas and a mammography room that is closed off, Kemper said. The unit can provide both 3D mammograms as well as traditional 2D mammograms.

Before Community Mercy Health Partners had its own mobile mammography unit, a sister hospital in Cincinnati brought its mobile unit to the community several times each year so that the hospital here could take advantage of a Susan G. Komen Columbus grant to provide mammograms to underinsured and uninsured women.

When the area needed another mammogram unit, “it made more sense for us to put this on wheels” to boost its accessibility, Kemper said.

One out of every eight women will get breast cancer, and the aim is to find it as soon as possible, she said.

In addition to serving Mercy Memorial Hospital in Urbana, the mobile unit has been parked at a variety of locations, including businesses, churches, schools, a nursing home, hotel and homeless shelter. Through the beginning of April, it had been utilized by more than 200 women at events throughout Clark and Champaign counties, as well as in Madison and Greene counties, Naill said.

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The mammography unit’s upcoming locations can be found at www.mercy.com/springfieldmobilemammo.

Businesses and organizations can schedule the mobile mammography unit to visit their location by calling 937-523-9330. There is no cost to do so, and businesses get the added benefit of providing a health service that promotes the well-being of their employees, according to Naill.

Upper Valley Mall has hosted the mammography unit several times already, and mall manager Brenda LaBonte expects to welcome it again. She has received “nothing but positive comments” from mall employees, as well as shoppers.

Fliers about the mammography unit’s visit have been distributed to mall employees and hung throughout the mall, she said. It also has been advertised on the mall’s marquee, website and Facebook page.

“We wanted to make sure as many people as possible knew about this,” said LaBonte, who also noted the importance of early detection.

RELATED: Springfield Chipotle hit by data breach, latest in string of retailers Women ages 35 and older can receive a mammogram screening without a doctor’s order. Kemper said that most insurance plans cover 2D and 3D mammograms, but patients are encouraged to contact their providers. Without insurance coverage, 3D mammograms are about $100 out-of-pocket.

Women who preregister by calling 937-523-9332 can expect a 15-minute appointment. Walk-ins are accepted but may take longer due to paperwork.

With the mobile unit, patients don’t need to take a day off of work to get a doctor’s order, and then another day off for the mammogram appointment, Kemper noted. Then the vehicle comes to you for the appointment – perhaps even where you work.

“I believe this will be the next generation of health care,” Kemper said.

After her mammogram, Landers-O’Neal received a call that she needed follow-up testing, which she received at the Springfield Regional Imaging Center. Those results were good news.

She encourages other women to take advantage of the mobile mammography unit and even hangs up fliers advertising the vehicle in restroom stalls at work.

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