Taking it to the Streets: Mammovan makes breast cancer screenings easier for Metro Washington, DC, area residents

To make early detection of breast cancer accessible to all women in the Washington, D.C., Metro area, the George Washington/Medical Faculty Associates launched the GW Mammovan in 1996. The Mammovan is a mobile screening mammography program, which is accredited by the American College of Radiology and certified by the FDA under the Mammography Quality Standards Act.

The Mammovan travels to corporate, community and executive sites throughout the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia. A registered female technologist provides free mammograms to low-income women without health insurance. The procedure takes roughly 15 minutes, and after interpretation of the mammogram, the woman and her physician are notified of the results. Following an abnormal screening, the program’s Patient Navigator helps patients obtain prompt diagnosis and follow-up care.

The program serves the most vulnerable of the medically underserved and uninsured women of the Washington, D.C., Metro area, with a special focus on minorities, many of whom are non-English-speaking immigrants who otherwise would find it difficult to obtain a diagnosis and treatment.

The Process

Several days a week, the Mammovan travels to locations in underserved communities and provides screening mammograms and follow-up to underserved minorities and older women. To connect to the mobile program initially, women either call the program or ask their community site coordinator to make the appointment. After the patient arrives for her mammogram, a receptionist has her sign some paperwork and a technician escorts her to the private imaging room.

If the screening mammogram shows a suspicious site, the staff calls the patient to schedule a follow-up mammogram. If the staff is unable to contact her, they send a registered letter to her last address. Women who need additional health services, such as biopsies and subsequent treatment and care, receive guidance from the Patient Navigator. Whenever possible, the Patient Navigator connects them to funding sources from GW’s list of resources in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The Navigator helps them complete the necessary applications as quickly as possible.

The Statistics1

The program provides screening mammograms to 2,400 to 2,600 women annually, either in their communities or at their workplace — roughly 32,000 mammograms since 1996. More than half the mammograms have been performed on women from racial or ethnic minorities. Of that group, 9 percent to 15 percent (depending upon year and racial/ethnic background) of the women have been 65 or older. Since 1996, more than 100 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and in each case, the Patient Navigator has helped them obtain care and funding.

Helping Women Lead Healthier Lives

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Today, 63 percent of breast cancers are found when they are localized and have not yet spread beyond the breast. When detected and treated in these early stages, the five-year survival rate is more than 97 percent.

According to Janet Kreitman, Program Coordinator of the Susan G. Komen Grant of AAHD,
So many women, especially women with disabilities, find it hard to get breast health screening, because transportation is a considerable barrier. The Mammovan addresses this barrier by providing convenient service, right where women in the D.C. metro area work and live.”

To schedule an appointment for a screening mammogram, call (202) 741-3252.

1Since publishing this article in our spring issue, we became aware that some of the statistics were outdated. So we are republishing the article with the latest data.