And this summer that unit hit the road – making a stop at the nonprofit Matthews Free Medical Clinic last week.
The unit also will be at the Matthews Alive! festival for screenings for women 40 and older. Free screenings are provided for those who qualify.
“Mammography is the best test to identify breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be curable,” said Gina Marsocci, marketing specialist for Presbyterian Healthcare.
Debra Bundum, of Cornelius, and a patient at the Matthews Free Medical Clinic, said her visit to the mobile breast center last week was her first mammogram in more than five years.
“I feel blessed,” Bundum said. “It was a really good experience. It was a little bit more intimate and that was a good thing, since it’s not normally a very pleasant experience.”
For Bundum, the clean interior of the converted touring bus was comforting, especially since it came complete with an all-female staff.
“It makes it more intimate and calming because it’s all women,” she said. “That makes a big difference, it really does. Some people are comfortable otherwise. I like it better this way.”
Marsocci said that the mobility of the unit is key.
“Women in this age group should receive a yearly screening and this unit will significantly increase accessibility,” she said. “It provides an easy and convenient alternative to breast exams in a clinic or a physician’s office, ultimately saving lives.”
More than 36 percent of women 40 and older in Mecklenburg County did not have a mammogram in the last 12 months, Marsocci said.
“That’s 71,238 women at a higher risk,” she said. “Mecklenburg County has the highest percentage of breast cancer cases diagnosed at stage IV, and the mobile unit was created to help women detect breast cancer in early stages, increasing survival rates regardless of their ability to pay.”
Marsocci said the unit was a collaborative effort between Presbyterian Healthcare and the support of donors including Agnes and Ed Weisiger, the Goodrich Foundation, and Mecklenburg Radiology Associates.
The unit cost about $480,000 to create in June. The cost includes the 38-foot Winnebago coach, a digital mammography imaging system and interior upfit to accommodate a waiting area and separate changing room for patients, Marsocci said.
Presbyterian Healthcare will fund the day-to-day operation of the unit.
“People can expect a friendly staff of all-female technologists and the privacy and comfort you receive in any breast center,” Marsocci said. “Two female radiology technologists are on the unit at all times.”
The unit comes fully furnished. Walking through the door to the Winnebago, visitors are met by a staff member and soft music. To the right is an office, seating area and kitchenette and to the left is a changing room for patients and the examination room.
Marsocci said the unit travels to three to four places throughout the week and events on the weekends.
“The unit will visit businesses, residential areas, the free clinic, anywhere it’s determined that there is need,” she said.
Marsocci said the Mobile Breast Center is meeting a very important need in the community by providing expanded access to a potentially life-saving screening.
“We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from women in the community who have used this service, noting the convenience of the mobile center, the friendliness of the staff and the relaxing environment that we’ve created inside of the unit to help make our patients comfortable during their visit.”
For more information, call 704-384-7226. No appointment is necessary.
To view the schedule for the mobile mammography unit, visit www.facebook.com/presbyhealth.