Rolling your way

Charlotte Radiology adding another mobile breast center to roads

by Mike Parks

Charlotte Radiology is bringing another mobile breast center to the Charlotte region to provide more people with mammograms. The centers are complete with exam equipment and technicians, and each of the two can serve around 5,000 people a year. The new mobile lab will hit the road in August and help people in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union and York counties. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Radiology

Charlotte is about to see a second big pink bus rolling through the area saving lives.

Charlotte Radiology is adding another mobile breast center next month to its arsenal, increasing the number of women the group can screen for breast cancer in the region. Charlotte Radiology’s first 38-foot bus has served almost 7,500 patients since February 2011 while driving more than 12,000 miles. The additional bus will allow the group to help around 5,000 more patients a year.

“Our goal is to educate women on the importance of early detection,” said Katie Estes, a corporate health and practice relations specialist with Charlotte Radiology. “We recommend monthly self-breast exams and annual mammograms. As more women become familiar with these guidelines, it is crucial to provide access to mammography throughout Mecklenburg and surrounding counties. The addition of the new mobile breast center will help us reach more women who didn’t have access before by increasing capacity at our centers, adding more corporate visits and traveling more frequently to rural areas outside of Charlotte.”

Of course, this isn’t your typical bus. It’s more a doctors office on wheels.

The vehicle is staffed by two mammography-certified technologists and includes a registration and waiting area, two private dressing rooms and an exam room for completing the mammogram. The units offer digital mammography exams, which improves exam quality, reduces radiation and shortens exam times, with each exam interpreted by a board-certified physician who specializes in breast imaging.

Most appointments take less than 20 minutes, which is vital since the mobile centers mostly serve businesses by bringing the bus to the patients instead of patients having to take time off to go to a hospital or doctors office.

“Our experience is that convenience, access and efficiency play a major role in whether or not women get their annual mammogram,” said Michelle Russell, marketing and practice relations breast services manager for Charlotte Radiology. “Even though we know that mammograms can save lives, many women put them off because they are ‘too busy’ – the number one reason women under 60 with insurance say they skip their yearly mammogram appointment. By bringing the breast center to them and offering appointments every 20 minutes, our goal of reaching ‘busy’ women has been very successful.”

This isn’t your regular, run-of-the-mill bus we’re talking about here. Charlotte Radiology’s mobile breast center is capable of doing vital tests and keeping patients comfortable and relaxed. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Radiology

But the buses also serve nonprofits, aiming to take care of the many uninsured women who otherwise may skip exams due to the cost. Charlotte Radiology will work with groups like the Mecklenburg County Health Department and Levine Cancer Institute: Project PINK to provide ongoing opportunities for education, breast screenings at local YMCA centers and follow-up care.

Why is a second bus important for Charlotte Radiology? Because breast cancer is a bigger problem in Mecklenburg County than many other places.

The county has a reported breast cancer rate of more than 120 cases per 100,000 people, according to the National Cancer Institute, which comes in higher than the national average. At the same time, around half of the corporate patients the center served last year were past due for mammograms, and more than 20 percent never had an exam.

Couple that with the fact that one in eight woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, while treatments can cost from $20,000 to more than $100,000. Catching the disease earlier can not only keep costs down for patients, but also save lives.

“Numerous studies prove that early detection is the most vital component in the successful treatment of breast cancer,” Dr. Matthew Gromet said. “Annual screening mammograms starting at age 40 play a central part in early detection because they can detect subtle changes in the breast before they can be felt. In addition, early detection through mammography gives women more treatment options with reduced surgery, better cosmetic outcomes and often eliminates the need for harsh therapies. Women should also perform monthly self-breast exams and have regular clinical breast examinations in addition to their yearly mammogram.”

Find more information on the program at the group’s website, www.-charlotteradiology.com/mobilebc.

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