The Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center at Stony Brook University Hospital is taking mammography screenings on the move. The center rolled out its new 40-foot pink van on Oct. 11, equipped with 3D digital mammography equipment. The goal is to provide easy access to mammograms for women over 40 at no cost.
“Patients are thankful and it’s a great advantage for them, because for many of them, managing their time outside of work is difficult,” Gioconda Nurillo, an intake coordinator on the van, said. “So being able to have a mammogram at their work location is perfect for them. Instead of taking time off, they are able to use time at work to have their mammograms done.”
The center received nearly $1 million to purchase the van and about $3 million to operate the equipment for three years through a grant from the New York State Department of Health and Health Research Inc. In total, the department has funded six vans across the state as part of the “Get Screened, No Excuses” initiative.
“We’re the only van on Long Island, so we have to cover Nassau and Suffolk counties,” Linda Bily, director of cancer patient advocacy and community outreach at the Stony Brook Cancer Center, said. “There’s a waiting room, a dressing room, an exam room and a mammography suite, and it has the exact same equipment, 3D tomosynthesis mammography, that we have in the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center here.”
The van is staffed by a team of four including an intake coordinator, a radiologic technologist trained in mammography, a registered nurse trained in clinical breast exams and a bus driver. At least one of the members is fluent in Spanish.
The whole process takes about 30 minutes. No prescription or insurance is needed to receive a screening on the van. Women without insurance will be covered through the New York State Cancer Services Program, which provides for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings at no cost for those qualified.
“It feels like an office,” Nurillo said. “We have a TV to sit and watch, and it’s big enough that sometimes we have up to three patients in the van.
Registered nurses from Stony Brook University Hospital underwent training before their first screening event on Oct. 11. They were led by Eileen Pillitteri, program manager of the Maurer Foundation, a breast health education non-profit on Long Island. The training detailed the components of the breast and growth of disease, and delved deeper into early detection methods, with a focus on the MammaCare method of breast examination. The nurses also analyzed the factors that influence breast cancer risk.
“It was great returning to my alma mater to share information about what I am most passionate about — breast health,” Pillitteri said. “They honed their skills as clinical breast examiners and learned important information about breast cancer risk reduction, which they will be able to impart through their patient education.”
Employers and community organizations with a large enough population of women over age 40 and eligible for a screening mammogram, such as assisted living facilities, churches and school districts, can arrange for a visit from the mobile mammography van.
“It’s just to help those who are underserved and have no insurance, as well as for people who have insurance but have busy lives,” Bily said. “We go to wherever it is people need us.”