A Banner Publication
October 2, 2008 – Vol. 2 • No. 14
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A test to save your life
Sarah Reinstein
Patient Navigator
Whittier Street Health Center
To provide its patients with easy access to mammograms, the Whittier Street Health Center has for the past six years partnered with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to bring the institute’s mobile Mammography Van to the health center once a month.

Whittier offers sensitive medical care and maintenance of health for women of all ages. The center recommends that all women over 40 years old receive an annual mammogram — a safe, very accurate X-ray photograph of the breast that helps doctors diagnose patients’ breast health.

Sarah Reinstein, a clinical case manager and breast health patient navigator at Whittier, works with Dana-Farber to coordinate the center’s monthly “MammoVan” visits.

“Whittier is proud to provide our patients with access to the MammoVan, the only mobile mammography program in Massachusetts, in our efforts to reduce breast cancer morbidity and mortality, improve access to quality care, and address health disparities experienced by women of racial, ethnic and other minority populations in our community,” she said.

Despite the van’s nontraditional health care setting, Reinstein is quick to point out the credentials of its talented staff.

“As part of the MammoVan visit, skilled, board-certified mammography technologists from Dana-Farber perform the exams, and films are interpreted by board-certified radiologists with extensive experience dedicated to mammography,” Reinstein said. “Clinicians also provide breast health education to women 40 years of age and older, regardless of their ability to pay.”

The service provided by the van is critical for Whittier’s patient population, Reinstein notes, because the health center does not have mammography equipment on site. She estimates that nearly 60 women, many of whom have a history of breast cancer in their family or have reached the age of 40, utilize the MammoVan’s services at Whittier each month.

Patients are either referred from their primary care physicians or have previously visited the MammoVan for a screening, according to Reinstein. But the goal isn’t merely to get patients to schedule an exam once — it’s to keep them coming back year after year.

“It is our practice to keep track of our patients in an electronic system so that we can make them aware that they are due for an annual breast cancer screening,” Reinstein said.

Following the screening, patients’ information is sent to Dana-Farber to be analyzed. The results are then sent back to Whittier’s physicians, who share them with the patients.

“If a patient receives an abnormal result, her doctor will counsel her and connect her with a specialist in order to receive a diagnostic mammogram at a nearby medical facility or hospital,” Reinstein said.

To illustrate the importance of the partnership that brings Dana-Farber’s Mammography Van to Whittier Street, Reinstein tells the story of one patient “who has been having an annual mammogram at the MammoVan for years and has never showed any signs of breast cancer.” She recently received an abnormal mammogram.

“The patient was sent to the medical facility of her choice for a diagnostic mammogram to determine if she should receive a biopsy,” Reinstein explained. “When the diagnostic mammogram confirmed the abnormality detected on the MammoVan, the patient was scheduled for a biopsy, which indicated that she did indeed have breast cancer.”

Thanks to that patient’s ability to get examined at the MammoVan, Reinstein said, she is now undergoing treatment at Boston Medical Center, and “we all hope that she is on a road to a full recovery.”

“Her experience underscores the importance of access to critical health services — in a welcoming and compassionate environment — for people of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay,” Reinstein said.