A mammogram, an X-ray of the breast, is considered the most effective screening procedure to detect the early signs of breast cancer.

For some women, mammography services are out of reach, because they’re uninsured or underinsured, or they have no way to get to an imaging center.

Enter the Mobile Mammography Unit, a large, pink motor coach that serves as an imaging center on wheels.

In 2012, the ECMC Foundation, First Niagara Bank, Buffalo Sabres and Western New York Breast Health teamed up to get the Mobile Mammography Unit on the road and heading into underserved areas both urban and rural.

“We have been to over 125 different locations, whether they be community centers, schools, senior centers, family medicine clinics, vocations,” Susan Gonzalez, executive director of the ECMC Foundation, said. “We go just about everywhere and anywhere in eight counties of Western New York.”

The MMU is always on the lookout for more new stops, she added.

At each stop, the MMU features two full-field digital mammography systems, fast, accurate images, two certified mammography technologists and a board-certified radiologist to read results.

The clinical portion of the program is operated by Dr. Vivian Lindfield of Western New York Breast Health. Lindfield is a breast surgeon at Erie County Medical Center.

According to Lindfield’s office, the program’s aim is to go into neighborhoods that are underserved or never served, meaning areas where women typically aren’t getting mammograms.

All women are welcome to have their annual screening at the MMU. New York State requires a prescription to get a mammogram, and Lindfield’s office promises to “work to make sure the patient does what is needed to get a mammogram.”

Many insurance plans will fully cover the cost of an annual screening. MMU program staff can help women find coverage.

To date, according to Gonzalez, 10,723 women have been screened by the MMU; and, among them, 1,137 were referred for additional diagnostic imaging based on screening findings.

In addition, she said, 23 women came back to tell the program organizers that they were diagnosed with breast cancer. They were under no obligation to share results, so the organizers believe it is possible that more women were diagnosed.

For more information about the MMU, go to www.wnybh.com.

 Contact reporter Rikki Cason at 439-9222, ext. 6252.

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