Springfield mobile mammography unit does 900 screenings in 1st year

A Springfield woman credits a new health service by Mercy Health-Springfield for saving her life after its debut last year.

In early 2017, the hospital put a mobile mammography unit into service in the area. The $850, 000 vehicle goes out to places in the community and offers breast cancer screenings. It’s the only similar unit in the region.

In its first year, 905 screenings were completed at 106 events in Clark, Champaign and nearby counties. The screenings identified 12 cancer cases.

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In its first year, 18 percent of the screenings were baseline screenings. That means it was a women’s first time receiving a mammogram.

The mobile unit accepts health insurance and about 11 percent of the screenings were at no-cost due to grants from several foundations.

Springfield has a higher rate of breast cancer than state and national averages, according to Mercy Health-Springfield, which is one of the reasons it introduced the mobile unit.

Some residents don’t have access to transportation to get to a stationary facility like a clinic or a hospital, said Selena Kemper, a supervisor with the Mammography Department at Mercy Health-Springfield and Urbana. They want to make it convenient to get screened, she said.

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Julia Baugh was the van’s first patient on its first day of service. It was her first mammogram in six years. Something told her to get screened so she signed up.

She was also the first woman served by the mobile unit who was diagnosed with cancer.

“It’s definitely different you know,” Baugh said. “Your body has changed but having life, you know if I had gone on, I might not be here.”

She had to have another mammogram done, a few biopsies and then bilateral mastectomies. To date, she has had no chemotherapy or radiation. All she has to do for the next five years is take a pill, she said.

Early detection was key, Baugh said.

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Kemper agreed. She also believes mobile imaging is the future. Several employers in the area have used the mobile unit.

“We believe patients have a very difficult time taking time off work. This will allow them the opportunity to just step outside of their employer for just a few minutes in order to get their breast screening,” Kemper said. “This vehicle houses the latest 3-D technology … We have the opportunity to either do a two dimension image or a three dimensional image for our patients, based on their needs.”

The enhanced imaging isn’t for everyone, she said, but it gives health-care providers more information.

“Instead of taking a two-dimension picture of the breast, it allows the physician to see through the breast at a one centimeter cut,” Kemper said.

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